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ISSUE TEN: SUMMER 2010

HE’S GOT THE POWER

How Sean O’Connor saw the potential in green energy and made millions

SILVER SERVICE Guy Hilton explains why his landmark Tyneside hotel is such a success

BANGING THE DRUM Andy Anderson hit all the right notes when it came to expanding his percussion firm

REDEFINING FAIR TRADE Furniture stores boss James Barker looked East to ensure he could see the wood and the trees

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

John Sanderson reveals how his business beat two floods in a year - and how he escapes the pressures of working life on stunning Bamburgh beach in Northumberland BUSINESS NEWS: COMMERCE: FASHION: INTERVIEWS: MOTORS: EVENTS

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BUSINESS QUARTER: SUMMER 10: ISSUE TEN Put all that gloomy talk of business storms yet to come behind you. We’ve got a fantastic compendium of stories for you to treasure, the more so because they stress how, with good old fashioned qualities of grit and determination, we can ride out whatever the politicians try to throw at us in business. John Sanderson, having earlier come through some hard times in construction, has more recently suffered a fate worse than Noah in the hotel industry but has been able to come through smiling. Becky Gibbons tells us how she has fought tooth and nail to become the only woman owner in her line of business. James Barker of Barker and Stonehouse is giving the term “fair trading” new meaning in the forests of Indonesia, and drummer Andy Anderson has found Business Link’s advice music to his ears. We’ve also discovered how Peter Stienlet’s craft pleases castle-lovers and serious canoeists alike. We’ve interviewed Guy Hilton, general manager of Hilton Newcastle Gateshead and Chris Lee of Sunderland’s outstanding small business CCS Mobile, to see how they’ve turned their businesses into award winners. Also we mark the anniversaries of Newcastle International Airport and the International Centre for Life, success stories at 75 and 10 years old respectively. And what is it about Sean O’Connor that at 30 he can already be £33m to the good? We look into the lofty ambitions of some other entrepreneurs and also find out the challenges they’ve had to meet. Meanwhile, Mike Parker, co-founder of award-winning digital company

Orange Bus, has no doubt what he would do with a large Lottery win. Looking to the future, our latest BQ Live debate brought in two top BT experts to help explain the further benefits we can perhaps expect from broadband. As for information indispensable, we have TV personality Jeff Brown bubbling with enthusiasm as he samples champers for our future guidance, and the car test this time round features the BMW M3 convertible. And just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Swiss Army Knife, we come up with some pointers on that too. With uncertainties brought on by the aftermath of the recent Election, and the fact that it’s now high summer (believe it or not) there is no BQ2 this quarter. But it will be back. In the meantime, we’ve introduced another regular feature to keep you up-to-date on media matters. Happy reading!

CONTACTS ROOM501 LTD Christopher March Managing Director e: chris@room501.co.uk George Cheung Director e: george@room501.co.uk Euan Underwood Director e: euan@room501.co.uk Bryan Hoare Director e: bryan@room501.co.uk EDITORIAL Brian Nicholls Editor e: b.g.nicholls@btinternet.com DESIGN & PRODUCTION room501 e: studio@room501.co.uk PHOTOGRAPHY KG Photography e: info@kgphotography.co.uk NR Photography e: nicky@nrphotography.co.uk ADVERTISING If you wish to advertise with us please contact our sales team on 0191 537 5720, or email sales@room501.co.uk

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NORTH EAST EDITION BQ Magazine is published quarterly by room501 Ltd.

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


CONTE BUSINESS QUARTER: SUMMER 10 HE’S GOT THE POWER

Features

46 SILVER SERVICE Guy Hilton explains why his hotel is winning so many plaudits

76 THE BEAT GOES ON Andy Anderson’s drum business is hitting all the right notes

24 FIGHTING BACK John Sanderson refuses to let two floods in a year wreck his hotel business

36 WIDER REACH BT experts explain the benefits of broadband at the latest BQ Live

42 HE’S GOT THE POWER Sean O’Connor saw the potentional in green energy and made a fortune

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

42 FLYING HIGH

90 FLYING HIGH Newcastle International Airport celebrates its 75th anniversary

102 IT’S GOOD TO TALK Recognition at last for CCS Mobile

104 BUILDING SUCCESS Restoring our heritage has helped Peter Stinelet’s business really take off

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90


TENTS NORTH EAST EDITION

IN CONVERSATION

54 BUSINESS LUNCH Linda Conlon outlines the first decade of the International Centre for Life

Regulars

60 WINE Jeff Brown enjoys some lovely bubbly

62 FASHION Why the travel suit is just the job

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ON THE RECORD Who’s making the news in Q3/10

68 KIT Victorinox diversifies into new products

12 NEWS Who’s doing what, when, where and why, here in the North East

22 AS I SEE IT Becky Gibbons on going self-employed

The landmark developments building the region’s industrial landscape

CUTTING EDGE

72 MOTORS Neal Holloway takes the BMW M3 convertible for a spin

112 EVENTS Key dates for the diary this quarter

30 COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

54

114 FRANK TOCK Gripping gossip from our backroom boy

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68 BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10


ON THE RECORD

SUMMER 10

New Tees Valley call centre Firstsource Solutions will create jobs and help fill the void left by the demise of one of the North East’s most successful locally-grown businesses, Garlands Call Centres >> Call centre blow softened A new call centre opening in Tees Valley could mop up nearly half the job losses recently suffered with the collapse of Garlands Call Centres. Firstsource Solutions is to open at Fountain Court in Middlesbrough town centre, possibly by September, bringing more than 500 jobs, against 1,158 or so lost by Garlands’ financial failure. A £1.9m grant from One North East, also involving corporate finance specialist UNW, has raised the prospect. Firstsource is also negotiating to move in and take over Barclaycard’s call centre operation at Stockton, retaining 700 jobs. Matthew Vallance, managing director of Firstsource, a Mumbai-based specialist in telecoms and financial services, says the Middlesbrough opening is the latest phase in a UK expansion. It already employs 2,000 in Northern Ireland and has a London base. The passing of CJ Garland & Co – Garlands Call Centres – has marked a sad ending to a previously inspiring entrepreneurial chapter Chey Garland wrote into the story of the North East’s new economy. A loss of key contracts to lower cost overseas rivalry drove this, one of the North East’s biggest call centre businesses, into administration. Garlands Call Centres had developed into an outsource operation with enviable blue chip clients. It was one of the region’s most successful locally grown businesses of any kind in recent years – and all built on the £600 savings of founder and chief executive Chey Garland. All three of its contact centres have gone down at Hartlepool Marina, Middlesbrough and South Shields. It employed 621 staff at Hartlepool, 359 in Middlesbrough and 178 at South Shields. At peak it employed 3,000 and had sales of £48m. Orange, Vodafone and Talk Talks all switched contracts, it is understood, leaving Garlands

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

>> Attracting top brains into the smaller business By taking on Durham University Masters student Laura da Costa, a market research firm hopes to prove that graduate research careers outside academia can be a wise career choice. Marketwise Strategies in Newcastle says that by engaging students through talks and by attending career events, it is persuading some brighter young minds in the region to consider challenging and rewarding careers in small and medium-size businesses. During a talk by Dr John Gibson, research executive with the firm - and a recent PhD graduate himself - Laura, who comes from Belgium, learned of opportunities in commercial research. Laura is now doing work experience while pursuing an MA in research methods. The firm’s managing director Jacquie Potts says: “We want to highlight the many career opportunities that exist beyond laboratories for postgraduates.” And Laura’s reaction? “An eye-opening experience.”

with one major contract only, making survival impossible. Now only about 70 staff remain to run what’s left and help the administrators wind down the operation. Nick Reed, director and joint administrator at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Garlands has experienced very challenging trading conditions. Its board was unable to identify a viable way forward.” The administrators and the company have been working with Jobcentre Plus to help displaced staff find new jobs. Chey Garland, a 53-year-old mother of two who left school at 16 with no qualifications, founded the firm nearly 20 years ago, initially debt collecting from an attic room at Albert Road, Middlesbrough. Garland, who was appointed CBE in 2007, saw the potential of

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First taste: New recruit Laura da Costa (front) with Marketwise Strategies managing director Jacquie Potts.

call centres, which were invaluable as moppers-up of redundancy victims from older industries. Garlands won many awards – including North East Contact Centre of the Year and, together with Vodafone, Best Work by a Contact Centre. Chey Garland has been Business Services Entrepreneur of the Year, Best Business Leader and Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year for 2005. She has recently been considering a start-up in South Africa. The region has around 145 call centres employing 64,000 people, 5.6% of the working population and double the national average. The company’s failure suggests that despite a clients’ gradual trend back to quality >>


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ON THE RECORD

SUMMER 10

assured performances via a return from abroad to home providers, British call centres may have to act on the American experience and introduce more languages and abilities to “talk technical” in their competences.

aftermath of Toyota manufacturing problems have been challenges since. Expiry of the scrappage scheme represents a further hurdle. RMB represents Toyota in Stockton, Darlington and Northallerton, as well as Lexus at Stockton. It owns a body shop and used car outlet near Yarm.

>> Success diagnosed NVM Private Equity has won Deal of the Year accolade at the annual Private Equity Awards. The Newcastle based company got the distinction for its investment in a Manchester diagnostics firm, DxS.

>> Arise, Sir Bob

>> Micro-firms can save Micro-firms may be able to benefit from Ofgem reforms being introduced. New rules limit the length of roll-over contracts, and make contracts and communications from energy firms clearer. The protections apply to all new micro-business energy contracts entered into from January 18 this year. Consumer Focus suggests checking out: www.consumerfocus.org.uk/assets/1/ files/2010/01/Switching-energy-supplieradvice-for-small-businesses.pdf> also ofgem. gov.uk/Media/FactSheets/Documents1/ helpingmicrobusinextprobeqa.pdf> Or contact Consumer Direct, tel 08454 04 05 06. www.consumerdirect.gov.uk

>> Conference call Some £378m entered the North East economy through hosting conferences in a recent 12 month period, the Newcastle-Gateshead Convention Bureau reports. Of that, £240m came from events in Newcastle and Gateshead.

>> Leaf price to be contained Nissan’s Leaf electric car will be kept competitively priced even if government grants are ended within three years, the Sunderland manufacturer says. The five-door vehicle is expected to sell for £23,350 in the UK instead of £28,350 as long as the government incentive is in place.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Recapturing the past: Time Team

>> Time for scanners Fresh from scanning parts of Alnwick Castle, the Gateshead firm Digital Surveys has used its laser scanning technology to reveal secrets of the past at Mont Orgueil Castle which, for 600 years, protected Jersey in the Channel Islands from French invaders. Ben Bennett, the firm’s director, was approached by Tim Taylor, owner of Channel 4’s Time Team brand and producer of the series starring Tony Robinson. The outcome was a three-dimensional model to show how the island heritage site looked in its earliest days.

>> Driving back into black Motor retailer RMB Automotive is chasing acquisitions after swinging into profit. The Stockton-based firm has shown pre-tax gains of £1.02m in the year to last December, against a £332,137 deficit previously. This was achieved despite turnover relatively flat at nearly £38m. Bad weather and the

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It’s Sir Bob Murray now, the former Sunderland AFC chairman having had a knighthood added to his previous CBE in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours. A resident of Jersey these days, he gets the honour for services to education as well as football in the North East. Fiona Cruickshank of Hexham has been appointed OBE for services to business. She has been a prime mover behind two new firms, The Specials Laboratory (later sold for £20m) and SCM Pharma. She is also involved in business support groups. Jonathan Blackie, regional director of Government Office North East, has a CBE. Ray Spencer, who combines entertaining as Tommy the Trumpeter with being executive director behind the commercial success of the Customs House Theatre, South Shields, has an MBE for services to the arts.

>> Helping hands The Business Link arm of Business and Enterprise North East helped to create more than 4,500 new businesses in the year to March, 16% more than in 2007-8 and over 4% up on last year. It has worked with more than 33,200 businesses and individuals to help them start up, develop and grow their activities – a 21% rise over the past three years. In all 23,000 customers received in-depth business services.

>> Water move Margaret Fay, whose term as chairman of One North East is ending, has been appointed an independent non-executive director of Northumbrian Water.


SUMMER 10

COMPANY PROFILE

Hay & Kilner’s commercial teams have geared up to assist businesses wishing to improve their funding and cash flow prospects. In the current economic climate, major barriers to expansion can include poor cash flow and lack of capital due to restricted lending by financial institutions.

HAY & KILNER HELPS BUSINESSES WITH EXPANSION PLANS

T

HE corporate team at Hay & Kilner is actively assisting businesses to gain access to funding. The £125 million Finance For Business North East Fund, formerly known as the “JEREMIE” fund, is available to North East businesses looking for investment capital of between £50,000 - £1.25 million. The overall fund is divided into 6 distinct areas, each of which is managed by a fund manager. Nick James, partner and head of Hay & Kilner’s corporate team, commented: “If your business has the potential for growth but requires capital investment, then we can introduce you to the appropriate fund managers and facilitate the legal aspects of the deal.” Hay & Kilner’s corporate team also includes partners Jonathan Waters and Mark Adams, and consultant, Jim Lowe. All members of the team have extensive experience of working with growing and ambitious businesses in a variety of market sectors. Hay & Kilner is also leading the way with a commercial debt management service that is top ranked in the North East by independently researched legal guides, The Legal 500 and Chambers UK (rated top in the North East in 2009 and 2010). The debt management team have had an outstanding year helping businesses to improve their cash flow and also providing advice to clients on refining their credit control systems. Getting paid may sound easy but for many organisations the reality is often a challenging, time consuming and expensive diversion from their main business activity. A business which has battled for weeks or even months to chase an overdue account for payment may find a swift solicitor’s letter is very effective. The team is experienced at managing the

Hay & Kilner’s corporate team includes (l to r) Nick James, Mark Adams, Jonathan Waters and Jim Lowe.

and our client base includes several well known national concerns, as well as many North East businesses. We have helped many clients who are suffering the detrimental effect of late payment.”

IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS THE POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH BUT REQUIRES CAPITAL INVESTMENT, THEN WE CAN INTRODUCE YOU TO THE APPROPRIATE FUND MANAGERS AND FACILITATE THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE DEAL debt recovery process whilst being mindful of protecting ongoing business relationships that a client may have with a non-paying customer. Barry Arkle, Hay & Kilner’s debt recovery manager commented: “We use the most sophisticated and flexible dedicated computerised debt recovery package on the market. We are able to process a large volume of cases quickly, efficiently and economically

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24-partner Hay & Kilner has improved its impressive ratings in The Legal 500 Guide this year with recommendations in 23 different work areas. The firm attributes much of its success to its personal approach and expertise across a comprehensive range of commercial and personal legal sectors. For more information about Hay & Kilner visit www.hay-kilner.co.uk or call 0191 232 8345.

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


NEWS

SUMMER 10

The state of the economy nationally and internationlly means money is tight for many businesses - though sport appears to be bucking the trend, remaining a big attraction for both sponsors and investors >> Energy deals at cost

Cost cutter: Adviser Stan Tatko (left) with Peter Chambers, whose waste-not want-not firm TelemetryOnline is offering to reduce heating bills for business At Cost Energy, which previously focused on helping domestic customers, now accepts registrations from business customers. The not-for-profit energy firm sells energy at cost price with a small overhead to cover running costs. Its founder is millionaire philanthropist and former owner of Home Pride, Matt Stockdale. In a separate bill-cutting move, Morpeth based Telemetry-Online now offers flexible and eco-friendly heating solutions through an energy management system it has introduced with guidance from Business Link. Chambers has specialised in monitoring and control of pipe networks and storage facilities in the gas industry. His technical expertise has also been backed up by other aspects of business, such as sales and marketing, which Business Link has helped him develop. www.atcostenergy.com www.businesslink.gov.uk/northeast or call 0845 600 9 006.

>> Sport spells cash Whatever its scarcity elsewhere, a lot of money still sloshes about in sport – as Durham County Cricket Club and the North East financial services group Moneygate can show. The county cricket side, which has announced a £200,000 profit for 12 months, has secured a six-year main sponsor deal with Emirates Airline. The airline, declining to disclose the value, says however it reaffirms its long-term

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

flying commitment to the North East, begun three years ago. Its daily non-stop flight between Newcastle and Dubai connects passengers to six continents and 100 destinations worldwide. Emirates has already helped the club’s ambitions to win the LV= County Championship for a third year running by supporting a pre-season tour to Abu Dhabi, and by bringing in overseas stars Ross Taylor and Albie Morkel for this

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year’s Friends Provident Twenty20. The club is now more than 90% owned by the Indian media figure Gautam Radia and his brother Hiren following a near £2.5m investment. It is boosting its playing squad and further developing its Chester-le-Street venue, now called Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground, ahead of hosting an England Test match against Australia in 2013. Other club sponsors include Brewin Dolphin, Eaga and the Clydesdale Bank. Meanwhile, the award-winning and expanding financial advisers Moneygate, which has just grown its senior management team by three, has swung a major sponsorship with the Scottish Golf Union (SGU). The Boldon firm has a three-year deal worth £50,000-plus to sponsor the Scottish Area Team Championship. It is also now independent financial adviser to the SGU and its 240,000 members. Under managing director Lee Hartley, Moneygate recently acquired Derwent Financial Solutions of Durham, Expert Money of Washington, and Beacon Asset Management of Buckinghamshire. It expects revenues to grow from £6m to £35m over four years. MGT Capital Investments, a New York sharelisted company, has taken a 49% stake, investing an initial £3m towards building the IFA network from 75 to 750. www.durhamccc.co.uk www.moneygate.co.uk

>> Delisted Tolent confident Despite its prestigious work in building the new Newcastle City Library and Haymarket Hub metro station, Tolent construction group saw turnover drop 42% from £150m to £87m in the year to last December. Operating profits fell from £1.8m to £231,000 and jobs were cut by 172 to around 450. But the Gateshead firm,


SUMMER 10

which withdrew from the Alternative Investment Market earlier this year, sees the likelihood of a profitable 2010. Building materials suppliers are expecting business to pick up too. JT Dove at Newburn plans store openings in Hexham and Stockton. And James Burrell in Gateshead hopes the recovery will lift it from a £400,000 loss last year.

>> Flying the flag Seven firms and three individuals have brought Queen’s Awards to the North East this year. The firms are: AMI Exchangers of Hartlepool, providers for shipping; ALP international of Spennymoor, exporter of engineering goods and services; ContiTech Beattie of Ashington, subsidiary of a German hosemaker serving the energy sector; Kilfrost, a family business in Newcastle making anti-freeze products for aircraft; Oil Consultants of Washington, engineering for the oil industry; Parker Hannifin of Birtley (formerly Domnick Hunter) maker of compressed air treatment and gas generation products; and Integrated Display Systems of Wallsend, whose belt tightening system is used in electronically assisted power steering. Individual awards have gone to Doug Scott, chief of Tedco enterprise agency on South Tyneside; Frank Nicholson, former managing director of Vaux Breweries in Sunderland but now working extensively with Sunderland Youth Enterprise; and Nicholas Bowen, head teacher of Benet Biscop High School in

Bedlington, leader of the school’s enterprise agenda since 2001.

>> Beauty chain makes regional inroads High street discount health and beauty chain Semichem plans to add to 10 openings already achieved in the North East. The Edinburgh business has 150 stores across Scotland, Northern Ireland and this region. It is part of the 150-year-old Scottish Midland Co-operative Society, which has just announced record profits. Its existing North East outlets are at South Shields, Wallsend, Ashington, Chester le Street, Billingham, Darlington, Sunderland, Consett, Stanley and, most recently, Barnard Castle.

>> He can see clearly now An industrial cleaning firm backed by multi-millionaire TV “dragon” Duncan Bannatyne has secured £2.1m worth of contracts. The wins for UK Cleaning Services (UKCC) are in private health care, retail and other businesses around the country. Last August the firm won £100,000 of backing through appearing on Dragon’s Den. Tony Earnshaw, 26, of Washington, set up the business with £300 when he was 19 and boosted earnings from a local window cleaning round to £6,000 a month. He employs 30 staff at Washington and Leeds, on turnover of around £1.5m. Bannatyne

NEWS

bought a 35% stake in the firm, which may also franchise. Bannatyne has also recently invested £5m in a West Country hotel, the Charlton House Spa, which was earlier in administration. This is part of a £15m investment plan for his nationwide hotel and spa operations. He also plans to take his spa portfolio up to 30. Group annual sales now top £70m.

>> Another title for Magpies Newcastle United’s catering and events services at St James’s Park are on the ball. The club has been named Directors’ Choice in the Football Hospitality Awards, after visiting boards voted it the best last season. Sodexo Prestige, which does the catering, also took bronze in the Chef’s Team of the Year after executive chef Robert Hendrix and his team contested a cook-off event. St James’s Park also received an innovation merit for pre-match enterprise, and a merit went to conference and events co-ordinator Kate Carnaby. Recent figures indicate that Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has pumped £25.5m more into the club and its debt to him is now £111m.

>> Business mourns Lyn Lyn Miles, who transformed Consett’s specialist glassmaker Romag into a global leader in renewables, died in June, >>

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BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


NEWS

SUMMER 10

aged 57, after a long illness. The miner’s daughter had been nearly 30 years with the firm, rising from secretary to chief executive by 2000. She inspired the firm’s lead into photovoltaics. James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, described her as a role model. Rising demand for Romag’s PowerGlaz recently put the firm back in the black.

>> Vertu builds on success With four acquisitions made recently in Scotland and North West England, Gateshead motor retailer Vertu now operates 66 outlets, confirming its position as eighth largest dealer in the UK.

>> Genetics firm takes off Quantum Genetics, a maker of designer molecules, has been spun out as a company from Northumbria University. It is pioneering an identification of new catalysts and reactants for use in the process industries, including pharmaceuticals, food and confectionery, metal extraction, consumer chemicals and petrochemicals. The university has an equity stake in the firm, which is also being backed by hi-tech consultancy Commercial Catalyst, and Quantum’s founders. It is the first business to be developed out of the university’s High Performance Business Development Programme. North East law firm Ward Hadaway advised. www.quantumgenetics.co.uk

>> New regime for airport Hugh Lang has left Durham Tees Valley Airport’s parent company, stepping down as group airports director of Peel Airports after the company announced it was selling a 65% stake in the business to Vancouver Airport Services of Canada. Lang, ex-chairman also of regeneration body Tees Valley Unlimited, said the deal was “a good fit” for Peel and the airport, whose passenger numbers are down to below 300,000 since its direct London

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

service was ended. George Casey, president and chief executive of Vancouver Airport Services, says his group has a strong track record of investing in and providing value-added management services for 19 airports around the world. Durham Tees Valley could be compensated by up to £12m for low cost carrier BmiBaby’s decision to cease all its services in 2006 despite an agreement to stay until 2013 - its parent Bmi ended the Heathrow service last year. Initially a judge ruled the BmiBaby agreement’s terms were inoperably vague. But three appeal court judges have reversed that decision,

ordering compensation and around £1m in legal costs. The case is back with the High Court, where final figures will be decided. A Sunday service from Teesside has been added to two flights each weekday to Southampton.

>> Whistleblower’s friend A Sunderland firm has developed a bespoke software system for one of the UK’s leading whistleblowing companies. Bond Solutions at the Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has worked with Safecall to provide a system enabling its customers to log in and view progress of their case online.

>> £125m support tap now running

Cold scan: (In front of glass) UNW partner Neville Bearpark (second left) and Sintons LLP corporate finance partner Matt Collen. (Left to right behind glass): Northstar Ventures investment manager Alex Buchan, iEvo operations director Stuart Ging and iEvo managing director Shaun Oakes More than 500 firms initially applied to benefit from the new £125m Finance for Business North East Fund. First to capitalise to the tune of £650,000 was a business set up in Gateshead 23 years ago – the games developer Eutechnyx. Also, a biometrics reader that scans fingerprints in temperatures down to -20 degrees - and through some latex gloves – is going into production after its North East developer, iEvo, received a £150k boost from the fund. Advised by finance specialist UNW, the Killingworth-based firm will use the backing to manufacture in the North East. NEA2F and North East Finance, both mentioned in a report on the fund in the previous issue of BQ, are separate companies with separate and clear remits. Andrew Mitchell is chief executive of North East Finance (www.northeastfinance.org), the holding fund manager of the six Finance for Business North East Funds making up the total. NEA2F (www.nea2f.co.uk) does not have a chief executive, but a chairman, Hugh Morgan Williams. NEA2F is the custodian of legacies produced from the regional funds, both historic and current.

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SUMMER 10

COMPANY PROFILE

PUBLIC SECTOR SPENDING CUTS - OPPORTUNITY OR THREAT The long-expected down-turn in the public sector has started with a bang. The emergency budget announced the expectation of spending cuts of 25% to ‘unprotected’ departments over the next three years. These spending cuts will not only affect the public sector but will also have implications for companies within the private sector. The spending cuts will be a shock to the system and these will become clearer when the outcome of the spending review is announced on 20 October. Public sector leaders need to have already started get to grips with this agenda and need to take strategic action to ensure that they have programmes in place to systematically manage these cuts. This provides both an opportunity and a threat to the private sector. The threat is clear. It is inevitable that the cuts will mean that some programmes will be

scrapped, services will cease to be provided and many services will have to make significant efficiencies. We are already seeing this - the cancellation of capital projects, for example, has great implications for the construction industry and their suppliers. The scale of the challenge will mean that all government bodies will have to renegotiate to rationalise what they do - we should expect that most private sector contracts will have at the very least to be renegotiated and there will be an impact on consultancy work. However, there is also an opportunity for the private sector. This is a time where the public sector will have to consider different ways of working and the private sector has a role to help to re-design the way services are delivered. The challenge for the private sector is to think through the role it can play in working with the

public sector to deal with these severe financial challenges. How can the private sector work more effectively with the public sector to ensure the system delivers more (or at least the same) for considerably less? The private sector organisations who can contribute to this challenge may have a great opportunity. While the challenges are difficult, we are optimistic that through effective joint working, both the public and private sector can come through this stronger.

Neil Austin, Northern Public Sector Risk Assurance leader, tel: 0191 269 4029, email: neil.austin@uk.pwc.com

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BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


NEWS

SUMMER 10

>> 60 more thinking caps Digital media agency TH-NK, under chief executive Tarek Nseir, is adding 22 more staff to its complement of 60 to expand in Newcastle and London.

>> Pharma sights raised Dianne Sharp, newly appointed managing director of pharma firm SCA Pharma, expects the firm’s client base to quadruple in a decade and expand its main manufacturing site at Prudhoe. Sharp was previously managing director of Mechetronics in Bishop Auckland, which was bought by a US firm and subsequently had its production switched to the Far East with a loss of 40 jobs. Sales are expected to reach £5m this year.

The suggestion, by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the region, is being made following a European Commission finding that around 25% of small businesses export or have exported in the past three years. Benefits of exporting, the report shows, include jobs growth and increased innovation within small businesses.

>> New role for Greg Former award-winning bakery boss Greg Phillips now has the job of heating up Northern Recruitment Group’s growth aspirations in Yorkshire. He is heading the Newcastle-based agency’s drive from York, in an appointment made less than six months after his North East Bakery group’s meteoric rise to 13 outlets ended in administration with a loss of 120 jobs.

>> Kathryn’s a worn-again Kathryn Rowe: Sight for sore eyes

>> TV news vacuum Trinity Mirror’s commission to be a pilot news provider for Tyne-Tees and Border TV has been aborted, the new Government having rescinded its predecessor’s decision. Money is instead being diverted into spreading broadband. Viewers are left wondering if ITV will still be allowed to opt out of giving regional news, leaving BBC to monopolise.

>> Grundfos picks up Exporter extraordinary Grundfos Manufacturing is rebuilding its workforce and turnover at Sunderland after its Danish parent switched production of a cold-water pump to a sister plant in Hungary. Sunderland sales fell by £15m and 80 jobs had to be shed. While it could not match record £103m turnover it did increase pre-tax profits. Now, with the new activities, it has the staff back up to 185 after falling from 250 to 170.

>> Look abroad, small firms told Small firms in the North East are being urged to consider exporting as a route out of the downturn.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Kathryn Rowe is horrified that more than five million pairs of spectacles are needlessly thrown away every year in the UK. Up to 98% could be relensed and worn again. So Kathryn, an optical worker since leaving school, is now running Framesavers - a new online company with offices at Kingston Park in Newcastle and Sunderland. Framesavers.com has already recycled and re-lensed more than 10,000 pairs of spectacles. It expects to recycle up to a quarter of a million pairs by the end of next year. Kathryn, aged 29, had discussed her concerns with her employer, a leading North East optical company. A gap in the market was identified and the new company set up. Kathryn, of Houghton le Spring, says: “Having my first child has made me think much more about the future. I wanted to return from maternity leave to the optics industry with more of an environmental purpose.”

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SUMMER 10

>> Holiday perk Gosforth holiday group Parkdean is investing £10m in its caravan parks to benefit from the stay at home trend this year.

>> Daisy blooms in Northumberland Two Northumbrian firms are now in the fold of Lancashire telecoms group Daisy. Having already acquired BNS of Prudhoe, Daisy has gone on to snap up Fone Logistics of Cramlington for £3.6m – hungry for 600 more dealers Fone Logistics represents. Part of Fone Logistics’ business relating to Network 3 was switched beforehand to Activ 8910 Crutes ad-175x120_Layout Business Communications Ltd, owned 1 by 09/07/2010 the

former owners of Fone Logistics, who will retain and grow this business. North East law firm Muckle advised Ian Gillespie, majority shareholder of Fone Logistics. It also advised the Gillespie family on its Nat Comm business sold in the 1990s. Gillespie formed Fone Logistics in 1996. Turnover has been as high as £100m.

NEWS

>> Just the medicine for IDS Medical testing kit maker IDS expects a 49% surge in annual turnover to £37.1m thanks to booming global sales. The Boldon-based business says turnover for the year ending last March will be up £12.2m on last year’s £24.9m. Big growth in the US, France and Germany as well as the UK gets the credit. Pre-tax profits are expected to align with board expectations.

>> Greggs enjoys buttie bonanza Greggs is on its way to achieving this year’s target of 60 new store openings, thanks partly to booming sales of its hot sausage and bacon butties introduced in February. It expects to complete 120 refits too.

15:02 Page 1

>> Stem cell firm advances NorthStar Equity Investors (NorthStar) has enabled biotech start-up Reinnervate Ltd to secure over £1.6m of funding £500,000 from NorthStar, the rest from private investors. Reinnervate, a Sedgefield spinout from research at Durham University, develops cultured stem cells.

Energetic. Down to earth. Valued. Our clients see the benefit of who we are. Call Emma Drysdale for a chat on 0191 233 9713.

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BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


NEWS

SUMMER 10

>> Port gets IT makeover Durham IT consultancy Waterstons is developing a new IT strategy for Port of Tyne. Its client list also includes Newcastle International Airport, Fox Racing Europe, Stewart Milne Group, Durham Business School and Vopak UK.

the two aircraft carriers will be built in the North East, creating 40 jobs. Hertel Technical Services, the only supplier of modular accommodation to the UK Navy, will now employ 68 people as it relocates to a new 160,000sq ft facility at the former Visqueen factory in Stockton.

>> Second navy sails in

>> Moves at the malls

A&P Tyne’s Hebburn shipyard, which is expected to do £55m of work towards the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, has meanwhile had hundreds of jobs safeguarded by a contract to refit two patrol vessels of the Bangladesh Navy. It is also confirmed that living quarters for

Phil Steele, 47, is the new general manager of the recently enlarged Eldon Square shopping centre, following Tim Lamb’s switch to run the newly enlarged MetroCentre at Gateshead. Ashington-born Steele has been 27 years in retail, heading The Bridges at Sunderland for the last 10.

>> Eco-friendly lodges plan

>> Kaiser returns Corporate counsellor Paul Kaiser, who advised on deals including the management buyouts of Dataform from Sage and Entec from Northumbria Water plc, has relocated back from London to Newcastle, joining UNW as a partner. After more than two decades with Deloitte he will now head UNW’s corporate finance lead advisory team.

>> Business on wheels At 50 Carole Barton has turned her white Alfa Romeo into a business on wheels. She has launched a chauffeuring service for business travellers and wedding couples. The Blackhall, County Durham, mother of two has gone into business after her sales job with a firm previously was ended.

>> Staff retained with MBO Vantis Business Recovery Services (BRS), which has an office in Darlington, has been sold in a management buy-out to existing Vantis BRS partners following the administration of Vantis plc. The new firm, FRP Advisory LLP, is led by partners Geoff Rowley and Jeremy French, who say the staff at Darlington and elsewhere will be retained.

>> Sunderland means business The University of Sunderland Business School has soared 81 places in a year in a Guardian league table of business and management studies providers.

>> Aesica thinks big

Low energy: Space Group’s lodges

Design and building practice Space Group has developed a low energy lodge concept – after a Swedish composite timber frame system - to give an eco-friendly alternative to traditional leisure parks in the UK. The firm, which employs 140 people in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester, says the lodges can have two to four bedrooms. Eventually it is hoped to manufacture in the North East.

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Pharma firm Aesica plans two acquisitions by the end of this year as its revenues soar by nearly 60%. With a head office at Newcastle’s Quorum Business Park and a Cramlington factory, it plans to treble in size within three years under chief executive Robert Hardy.


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COMPANY PROFILE

ENTERPRISING THOUGHTS I received the County Durham Economic Assessment for April recently. Now, I know the old saying of lies, damn lies and statistics, so I’m wary of figures, but one set did stand out for me in particular. In the period January – March 2010, apparently 21.7% more businesses started up in County Durham than in the equivalent period last year. Apart from the obvious fact that we have (hopefully) seen the worst of the recession, something must be triggering this rise. I know Richard Branson has often been quoted that in his opinion, some of the most successful businesses are set up during a recession (and he should know- he did it himself). I suppose it is true. For some due to changes in personal circumstances, running their own business is finally the real option. It could be developing the idea they have long cherished, or possibly exploiting that gap in the market they

s a m t s i Chr

know is there. Whatever the motivation, they have decided now is the time to act. This brings me to the point I want to make, individuals arrive at the decision to explore the opportunities of self employment, there is one of the best support networks available here in the North East at their disposal. I know I’m biased coming from East Durham Business Service – one of twelve Enterprise Agencies in the North East, but we have contributed to that 21.7% figure in County Durham in our own small way. We have also seen a survival rate for our start up businesses operating for at least a year running at 79%.for April 2010. So, if you are one of the hundreds of small businesses who have started up recently, despite the recession, I wish you every success and with the fervent hope that you do emulate Richard Branson!

Peter Chapman, Chief Executive www.edbs.co.uk, tel: 0191 586 3366

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BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


NEWS

SUMMER 10

>> Full of energy Barclays Private Equity now has a stake in Wilton Group, the Middlesbrough firm of engineers in traditional and renewable energy. Wilton is using a £16m investment for acquisitions as well as growing organically.

>> Staying on the rails Northern Rail, jointly run by Serco and Abelio, has secured a two-year extension to its franchise to run 2,500 train services daily across the North of England.

>> Wind of change The New and Renewable Energy Centre at Blyth has been renamed the National Renewable Energy Centre, reflecting its place now as a national facility.

>> Builders move in Money shot: A Night in Turin

>> World Cup movie hits the target Angels descending on the North East brought football heaven for film director James Erskine. His World Cup film played to audiences globally as a curtain-raiser to this year’s tournament – thanks to a fillip from venture funding organised within the region. Through regional partners Northern Film & Media (NF&M) and NorthStar Equity Investors (NSEI) the New Black Films production of his soccer epic, One Night in Turin, has been first to benefit from a North East Creative Content Fund set up in February. Already critically acclaimed, the Italia ’90 tale, based on the book All Played Out by Peter Davies, tells of a nation united in football. It uses archive content, behind-the-scenes footage not seen before, and specially shot images, as well as North East locations. Post-production was by Mere Mortals, the Newcastle-based creative media company. The film was premiered last May in Newcastle, in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Around £140k of the film’s support has come from the fund ahead of screening, with £118k more in private investment following. The Creative Content Fund is a £2.4m partnership between screen agency NF&M and Newcastlebased venture capital firm NSEI Ltd, managed by NorthStar. Over two years, the fund will make 18 various investments across film, TV, games, digital media and music. New Black Films, led by Erskine, had previously secured £100k from NF&M’s Content Fund. NF&M chief executive Tom Harvey describes One Night in Turin as “quintessentially a North East story of Gazza, Bobby Robson, Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley at the extraordinary 1990 World Cup.“ NorthStar has two successfully invested funds: the £30m North East Co-Investment Fund, putting investments of up to £1m into high growth companies, and the £13m Proof of Concept Fund targeting the pre-seed stage of investment by supporting entrepreneurs with up to £90,000.

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Having completed a contract to design and build Quay West Business Park, Brims Construction has now moved its growing team in there as well - and to one of the Sunderland site’s biggest units. Brims was commissioned by property developer Adderstone Group to bring about the 110,000sq ft development. Now, six months after finishing the job, Brims finds that despite a turbulent economic climate, it has outgrown its previous office in Sunderland’s North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC). As a result, it has taken up a 2,600sq ft unit at the new development. Brims director Richard Wood says: “The units were selling so fast that we actually lost out on three other offices before we signed on the dotted line. “The park’s location is perfect for us as it’s pretty central to our projects, which are all over the North East. Also, having built the office ourselves, we knew it was good craftsmanship! There is also a variety of like-minded businesses on site that could be a great asset for us in terms of future business growth.”


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COMPANY PROFILE

Local government is facing an unprecedented situation but Dave Smith remains positive about the future for public services and for the city. “We must start to ‘think bigger’ in order to rise to the tough financial challenges still ahead and use this time as a catalyst for change. We shouldn’t assume that reduced budgets automatically damage our ability to deliver good quality services.

A CITY WITH AMBITION

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AVE Smith, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, has a double challenge on his hands this autumn. In the same week that the council is due to launch its Economic Master plan, to help set the direction for the city’s economy over the next 15 years, the new coalition government will be announcing its comprehensive spending review to deliver the currently planned reduction of 25% in gross annual public sector investment that will take place by 2015/16. The next decade will require us to work innovatively – to think of new ways to do things; to re-think partnership working as we know it now; and consider new tools to finance and deliver outcomes. In Sunderland the work we have undertaken so far on our Economic Masterplan supports this. It is built on solid foundations. The last decade has seen a sustained growth in jobs and incomes with Sunderland’s economic growth outstripping the rest of the country. The economy is now far more robust, diverse and competitive than during past downturns. The Masterplan shows how we can take the progress we had made forward and close the gap which still exists between Sunderland’s prosperity and the rest of the country. It will provide a clear direction for the growth and development of the city’s economy over the next decade and beyond by identifying the types of industries and skills we need to focus on to help Sunderland and its people”. There is a particular focus on self-employment and entrepreneurship in the Economic Masterplan and also on addressing some of the challenges common to many areas within the region. “There is an innovation gap in the North East: our research and development expenditure has been behind the national average for a long time. But we are addressing this: developing centres for

In recent months Dave has been initiating conversations with a number of organisations currently involved in developing new and novel approaches to public/private finance partnerships. “Social Impact Bonds are one financial tool that I’m very interested in exploring more. Developed by the Young Foundation, they provide a new way to invest money in social outcomes.”

Dave Smith, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council

THERE IS A PARTICULAR FOCUS ON SELF-EMPLOYMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE ECONOMIC MASTERPLAN innovation as well as knowledge hubs – such as NaREC, Sunderland Software City and NETpark and using new opportunities such as the low carbon economic area to highlight existing innovations strengths we can build on. In delivering our future economic strategy we need to be more assertive in articulating the value contribution that the public sector makes to place shaping and facilitation of investment to ensure economic prosperity. We have had to think about how we will operate differently in the new financial reality. We are exploring and developing new joint venture and partnership models and we will need a range of flexible approaches to support investment and development relevant to the new economic conditions. As well as a facilitator and broker of partnerships, the Public Sector has a role to play in promoting policies that shield cities and communities at a time of slow and uncertain economic recovery.”

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Their key innovation is to link three elements: • Investments (by commercial investors or foundations); • A programme of actions to improve the prospects of a group (for example 14-16 year olds in a particular area at risk of crime or unemployment); and • Commitments by national government to make payments linked to outcomes achieved in improving the lives of the group (for example, lower numbers in prison, and lower benefits payments). Various versions of social impact bonds have been developed so far and I’m now looking into how Sunderland could develop its own model based on what we need here in the city.

To find our more contact: Deborah Lewin, Director of Communications 0191 561 1135 or go to www.sunderland.gov.uk

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


AS I SEE IT

SUMMER 10

How to floor the competition Becky Gibbons reckons she’s the only female running a business of her kind in the country and it wasn’t easy getting there. But perseverance pays for anyone desperate to take up the challenges of self-employment, she says

My parents went to live in London when I was 18. I didn’t go with them as I considered myself quite capable of looking after myself. The belief at that age is you can handle anything. Nothing fazes you. But the reality, when it sinks in, is quite different. I started my working life dressing window displays for Curtess shoes. I covered the North East and Cumbria. I travelled everywhere by public transport with my little tool kit. This comprised a staple gun, a pair of pliers and some double-sided tape. Next I worked in a department store in Newcastle, also dressing window displays. I felt quite trapped during this time, as I was barely earning enough to pay my bills. My weekly wage came to £70. I decided learning to drive was my way out to a better job and, hopefully, a career. I took a second job at Brough Park Stadium to earn the cash needed to learn to drive. It

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took a while as one lesson a week was about £12, and working all weekend at the dog track only earned me £18 extra. Hey! Got there though. After applying for many jobs I landed a merchandising job in Worcestershire, working for a flooring company in Stourport. I shamefully lied through my teeth to get the job. When asked if I could drive a long wheel-based transit van, the thought in my head was an article I had recently read where an actress had lied about being able to ride a horse and she got the gig. How hard could it be? A transit was the same as driving a mini – right? I’ve also believed always that the “proof is in the pudding”. If I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t last long anyway. I did last, and after that I moved to a job in sales within the same industry, but with a Belgian firm. The job was very high pressure and the company had

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your life. It was work, work, work! I decided to move to an unknown company in Middlesbrough, again in the flooring trade. It manufactured most of its products in Poland. I sold these into retail, covering the North East and North West of England. I built the area up from nothing to the highly successful area it is today. It has the highest turnover in the country within the company. After a few years there I started to feel unfulfilled and really needed something to challenge me. I looked into starting my own business, going quite a way down a few different lines. But nothing quite worked out. In January 2009 I went ski-ing. It gave me time to think. I returned with a plan. I made an appointment with our managing director. I told him I had decided to move on. The company had other ideas, however. Having


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been aware I wasn’t happy, they offered me a chance to go self-employed as an agent. I could keep the whole area I had worked hard to build up, and also they had bought a new company with a brand new style of flooring that they also wanted me to sell into retail for them. I accepted happily. I now have the first year of my own company, Rebann Agencies, under my belt and have four different manufacturers on my books, all selling different products within the flooring trade. Now I work longer hours, travel further – anywhere between Leeds, Berwick, Carlisle and Barrow - do my own books, and basically juggle all my balls in the air at once. I am also, unbelievably, the only solo self-employed female agent within the flooring trade. There are a couple of

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AS I SEE IT

husband and wife teams. But that’s it. The trade is male all the way through. I work differently from my male counterparts. They play golf and go out on drinking sessions with their customers. If I play golf and win that doesn’t get me Brownie points. If I play golf and play rubbish I’m getting in the way and should get back to the kitchen. If I go out drinking it isn’t much different. No, my good relationship with my customers has been achieved by working twice as hard, dotting all my Ts and crossing all my Is, being interested in their lives and letting them give me advice. Any beer and wine I buy them at Christmas is greatly received! The new financial year for my Gateshead business has started off well and long, I hope, may it continue. n rebann2@btinternet.com

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


in association with

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING It takes more than two floods within a year to knock the smile off John Sanderson’s face. Already the industrialist turned hotel owner is planning new ventures, Brian Nicholls discovers >>


ENTREPRENEUR Noah had it bad when the clouds burst. But it happened only once for him. John Sanderson has endured it twice within a year and still smiles. Sanderson, managing director of STR Enterprises, sees life as a journey and thrives on challenges. His latest challenge was overcome when STR’s Best Western Honest Lawyer Hotel recently reopened with a multi-million pound refurbishment - after not lightning but floodwater struck twice. The three-star hotel at Croxdale on the A167 had to close after the River Browney burst its banks three miles south of Durham, in July 2009. Altogether 19 occupants, 14 guests and five staff, had to be rescued from the building by boat. It had flooded in September 2008 too. Experts told the hotel’s general manager Chris Bowran the latest episode was a “once-in-a-century” flood event. “It certainly frustrated us,” Sanderson admits. “Fortunately we were fully insured and have fully and substantially renovated and remodelled the Honest Lawyer Hotel.” By reopening time last April, with 30 staff and more to follow, flood safeguards had been upgraded, full insurances once more taken up. So the Best Western Honest Lawyer functions once more alongside STR’s other hospitality venues of character: Quayside Exchange, Sunderland, Manor House, Bishop Auckland, the Victoria Hotel, Bamburgh and the Centurion bar and cafe at Newcastle Central Station. In them all, value for money is the aim – “particularly important, that, in these recessionary times,” Sanderson observes. A member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, he operates STR Enterprises from Benton in

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Newcastle. He’s one of a growing clan of seasoned business builders drawn to the hospitality sector after excelling in other livings. Others include Duncan Bannatyne, Tom Maxfield, Graham Wylie, and Brian Burnie, the latter, a former recruitment specialist, having recently sold the Doxford Hall Hotel near Alnwick which he had just completed, to add to millions he’s already given to charity (see Page 31). STR Enterprises is very much a family business. “I’m fortunate in having a very close family,” Sanderson says. “My wife Elizabeth and our three sons all work in the business. Jason runs the Centurion and business development. Chris the financial side, Richard internal auditing, and Elizabeth advises on interiors and keeps me right.   “It’s a bonus having our sons in the business. There was no pressure or expectations on our part. They get along really well. There’s no infighting, which is very pleasing to Elizabeth and me.” It must also be reassuring when John slips off to play squash (“not brilliantly”) two or three times a week, or when he’s away ski-ing or strolling the beaches with his two beagles at Tynemouth Long Sands or Bamburgh. He’s earned his respites. Running hotels is tying. But Sanderson asserts: “Having built a successful contracting business earlier, I always realised that in contracting everything was beyond one’s control. It was hard to create an asset with long-term growth potential. So I was attracted to hotel and leisure. A successful property-based business usually grows in capital worth.” His dad Alf - a detective sergeant with Durham Constabulary - still has the record for judges’

It’s a bonus having our sons in the business. There was no pressure or expectations on our part. They get along really well. There’s no infighting, which is very pleasing to Elizabeth and me

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

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commendations on successful convictions that were gathered as the family home moved between Hartlepool, Newton Aycliffe and Stockton. Young John, like his schoolmates, fancied working for ICI. However, he gained a 100-1 chance apprenticeship with Haigh & Ringrose, a Middlesbrough electrical contractor whose workforce grew from six to 800 by the time Sanderson left aged 27 with far more confidence in his own ability. After a spell estimating, Sanderson was sent on student transfer to Power Gas Corporation.   He worked in the drawing office, design and estimating departments and became a junior construction engineer on the Hitchin Gas Reforming Project. On return to Haigh & Ringrose he found estimating dull, and asked for site work on a lossmaking job at Lennig Chemicals in Jarrow.   Within three months he had the job making substantial profit. His bonus was a paid trip to Rhodesia to see his sister for the first time in 10 years. He liked Newcastle, though, his mother’s large family being from Scotswood. He decided to tender for other work thereabouts and, at 21, set up the company’s first branch, at Wallsend – so successfully he was made regional manager for Newcastle and Glasgow. In Newcastle he met and wed Elizabeth. Not even the offer of a tripled salary to head another engineering firm would lure him to the South. Instead in 1971 he left Haigh & Ringrose and founded Norstead Engineering Services Ltd. There were hundreds of electrical contractors but few he knew providing full electrical, mechanical and plumbing services. Norstead would - for blue-chip clients of high repeat-work potential. He offered also to install plant and machinery process pipework and instrumentation. When NSK Ball Bearings of Japan was setting up in Peterlee, he wrote (in Japanese) asking : Could he tender for work?   Six months later a bus arrived unannounced outside Norstead’s modest office at the foot of Byker Bank, with 12 Japanese engineers wearing NSK jackets waving John’s letter. They wanted to visit some jobs Norstead had completed. After 30 fruitless minutes trying to fix a visit to various clients, Scottish &


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Newcastle agreed. Result: Norstead installed NSK’s machinery non-stop through Christmas and New Year. Next, Sanderson set up Norstead Leisure (acquired by Tomorrows Leisure plc in 1986) to develop the George Washington Hotel. It helped bring Nissan to Washington in 1984.   The multinational had agreed with the British government to start a car plant somewhere in the UK. When he learned the Japanese delegation would stay in Washington, Sanderson had his PA visit the Oriental Studies department of Durham University to learn about their customs, superstitions and a bit of the language.  The Japanese stayed at the George Washington, where they were even offered Japanese food, but chose English. Nissan later said their welcome there was partly why they chose the North East over Ireland and Wales. The hotel grew: 18 to 100 bedrooms. It acquired a squash club, driving range and golf course – the region’s first leisure club, Sanderson believes. A Queen’s Moat offer, £11.2m, proved too good to decline. With £7.5m profit resulting, Redworth Hall Hotel near Darlington could then be developed from 16 bedrooms to 100. Sanderson also spotted a potential for low investment and high returns by launching a chain of 12 Supasnooker clubs – at Wallsend, Byker, Ashington, Castletown, Hartlepool, South Bank plus 24 hour clubs in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, and acquiring existing clubs in Consett, Stanley and Bradford. Then came multi-leisure complexes in Redbridge, Greater London, Ascot and Liverpool. Norstead peaked in 1992, its North East workforce tackling multi-service contracts in the North Sea, and electrical contracting multi-packages. Then, calamity... The engineering got entrapped in Canary Wharf, then Europes biggest construction site. The original developer, Olympia & York, went into administration. Norstead was suddenly £40m down. While the group had been very profitable for over 20 years this level of loss was beyond it.   Sanderson valiantly tried for recovery, investing much of his personal money (with Tomorrows Leisure shares collateral). But Norstead Services

ENTREPRENEUR

Ltd went into receivership and was sold to Metnor Industrial Holdings. Sanderson moved on. He’s proud so many exceptional people, once with Norstead, have also developed successful businesses in the region. In 1996 he sold his major stake in Tomorrows Leisure and set up STR to acquire under-performers in the hospitality business. First, the Victoria Hotel, Bamburgh. Others followed, including dreadfully neglected premises in Newcastle Central Station, now the celebrated Centurion bar and cafe. By refinancing it in 2006 he could refurbish and expand elsewhere. In 2008 the firm diversified into golf. Through Keeping Inn Ltd (an STR subsidiary) it secured from North Tyneside Council a long lease on the 18-hole Wallsend club, now Centurion Park Golf & Leisure Centre.  With the council as partner, it has a plan submitted to add a hotel, function venue,

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aerial assault course, five-a-side football facilities, floodlit par 3 golf course and a sports injury clinic. If approved, these will appear over some years. His group supports Sunderland Heritage Quarter, a regeneration project in the city’s east end, and is looking for a development partner after gaining permission for a 65 bedroom hotel overlooking the Wear beside Quayside Exchange. Sanderson adds: “We hope to build a boutique hotel on this superb site - great standards, competitive prices. In short, a great hotel for Sunderland in the next few years.” STR Enterprises now employs 260 people. “We try to train and develop from within and are fortunate in having a very low staff turnover,” Sanderson says. “All my business success has been due to developing a good team.” Industrious Chris Bowran at Croxdale has come through the ranks and rain, >>

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ENTREPRENEUR

Centurian: Newcastle’s most impressive watering hole

Having built a successful contracting business earlier, I always realised that in contracting everything was beyond one’s control. It was hard to create an asset with long-term growth potential. So I was attracted to hotel and leisure undampened in enthusiasm and impressing with his motivational skills. Sanderson has no doubt he’ll sustain success for the reborn Honest Lawyer. Operations director Pam Mooney and other key managers are all long-serving. Angie Thomas, manager of the Manor House Hotel & Country Club also worked for him when he

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developed Redworth. PA Anne Wade-Tunnah recently retired after nearly 30 years. “I’ve not replaced her, but she’s still at the end of the phone when required,” he says gratefully. “Since the Honest Lawyer re-opened, business has been very strong,” he adds. The overhaul has included a refurbishment of six four-poster suites and 46 more bedrooms around the courtyard. A new Baillie’s Bar and Restaurant has opened, plus a modern meeting room. Free high-speed wi-fi serves business guests. In, too, as head chef has come Harry Baillie, formerly of The Ritz in London, Baillie’s restaurant in Barnard Castle, and Austin’s Bar and Bistro at Durham County’s cricket ground. Large portholes enabling diners to see into the kitchen are Baillie’s idea, and fresh local produce is preferred. Sanderson says of the future: “We intend to expand STR Enterprises Ltd and Keeping Inn Ltd gradually as suitable opportunities arise. The recession and airline inconveniences have benefited us. Now we aim to add to our well-balanced portfolio of successes in the North East.” Turnover of STR and its Keeping Inn subsidiary was about £5.2m last year. This year it’s likely to exceed £6m. n

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s 350 members – from all stages of business growth and all passionate about what they do – are willing to share their knowledge for the benefit of others, providing unique access to a wealth of collective experience. This is harnessed to create real value through a variety of events, mentoring and instruction from the practitioner’s perspective.

To find out more please visit www.entrepreneursforum.net

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Where success lies The Quayside Exchange: Grade II listed function centre at Wylam Wharf, overlooking Sunderland’s city centre waterfront. Builder: George Cameron of Chester-le-Street. First stone laid (1812) by Sir Henry Vane Tempest. Opened 1814. Major social events there included Marquis of Londonderry’s banquet for the Duke of Wellington (1827). Sir Walter Scott a guest. Became Sunderland’s first town hall (1836). Unoccupied: 1960s-1986. North of England Civic Trust, funded by Tyne & Wear Development Corporation and working with English Heritage, the city council and the Heritage Lottery fund, effected a £4.5m refurbishment. Keeping Inn leased it (2002), investing further to provide for conferences and banqueting (up to 300). The Centurion Bar, once described in The Observer as “Newcastle’s most impressive watering hole”. Queen Victoria’s resting quarters when formally opening Newcastle Central Station (1850). Original ornate tiling now valued at £3.8m. Has also been palatial waiting lounge for first-class passengers and cells for British Transport Police. Vandalism within John Dobson’s Grade 1 listed interior, including painting of ornate tiles an appalling red! Keeping Inn Ltd acquired in 2000, restoring dignity within 12 weeks - start to finish. The Victoria hotel overlooks Bamburgh’s village green, which is dominated by the famous Norman castle looking to Holy Island and the Farnes, with great beaches. The Manor House Hotel & Country Club, a Grade 1 listed building partly Jacobean, with secret passages and, reputedly, a “friendly” ghost or two. Served as Henry VIII’s hunting lodge. Built on 12th Century foundations in West Auckland. Features behind its facade now include a swimming pool, leisure club and conference facilities. The Best Western Honest Lawyer Hotel, Croxdale: as described.


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SUMMER 10

Supermarket giant Tesco heads redevelopment proposals aimed at injecting new life into two of the North East’s major urban centres with mixed use plans for sites in Sunderland and Gateshead >> Tesco chooses ways forward

>> New life for listed building Something sweet: The modernised Prudential House on Middlesbrough’s Albert Road is attracting tenants

Opportunity knocks: Jomast’s mixed-use commercial building proposed for Albert Road

One of Middlesbrough’s historic buildings, the old Cleveland Club on Cleveland Street, is getting a new £1m lease of life as premium office space. Green Lane Capital, Middlesbrough brothers Andy and Christopher Preston in partnership, is making the Grade II listed building in the town centre its second development of character properties in the town this year. Renamed Gibson House after its architect creator - who also worked alongside Sir Charles Barry on the Houses of Parliament - the development will provide 6,000sq ft of office space. It is hoped the first company will be in before the end of next year. The first building on the site was the home of John Gilbert Holmes, one of Middlesbrough’s earliest shipbuilders. The present building was designed and erected in 1872 by renowned bank architect John Gibson for the National and Provincial Bank. It assisted Sir Charles Barry on the drawings for Parliament. The building was renamed the Cleveland Club after business people met there informally from 1948. Green Lane Capital got a residential scheme for Kirby College underway in April. Also in Middlesborough, developer Jomast has been letting commercial space. TNG, a national job training and business services organisation, has leased a 3,100sq ft ground floor unit at the newly-modernised Prudential House building on Albert Road. The company has agreed a five-year lease through Storeys:ssp after winning a contract to deliver a programme raising job chances for 18 to 24-year-olds. Search-engine lister First Search Consultancy has also taken 1,300sq ft there, besides 4,000sq ft of existing space at 28/32 Albert Road leased from Jomast. Also, Jomast plans a multi-million office and retail development for 15/25 Albert Road. The glass-fronted four-storey building would replace four redundant and disused buildings. Online marketing firm Business Search Local has moved from Victoria Road to first-floor offices at 8 Albert Road through agents Sanderson Weatherall.

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Two marathon sagas in planning, taking up the best part of a decade and with Tesco involved in both, may at last be progressing and breaking a deadlock in redevelopment of two major urban centres of the North East. The supermarket giant, which refused to release the former Vaux brewery site in Sunderland after its retail-dominant plans there were rejected, now looks likely to accept an alternative: a new 80,000sq ft supermarket at Sunderland Retail Park, near the Stadium of Light. If allowed, the brewery site could get its mixed development alternative drawn up by the city regeneration body Sunderland Arc. Tesco bought the brewery site in 2001. Sunderland Arc’s proposal, which could bring 3,000 jobs, would comprise homes, hotels, and leisure, as well as civic and private office space. Mountview Securities has submitted the alternative for Tesco, centred on its retail park, which Tesco is understood to find acceptable. Meanwhile, at Gateshead, demolition of the controversial “Get Carter” car park is going ahead after Tesco and the local council agreed a £50m redevelopment of the town centre following a decade of procrastination. In place of the concrete block prominent in Michael Caine’s 1971 cult film, Tesco would lead a reborn centre with a supermarket of at least 100,000sq ft, along with 40 small shops, living space for more than 1,000 students, restaurants, cafes, public space and car park. Gateshead town centre has struggled for years, notably since the arrival of the MetroCentre and retail growth in Newcastle, but property specialist Bill Lynn of Storey:ssp says it now has a big vote of confidence. Tesco has also bought from Ebac boss John Elliott the Bishop Auckland site of his international water cooler and dehumidifier business. He is relocating 220 staff to the old Schott glass factory on Aycliffe Industrial Park at Newton Aycliffe, ending rumours the operation might switch to Poland.


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COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

>> Doxford Hall stays local Self-made multi-millionaire Brian Burnie has found the fellow philanthropists he was looking for to buy his Doxford Hall Hotel at Chathill, near Alnwick. They turn out to be Robert and Gina Parker, who already own Guyzance and Eshott Halls in Northumberland as well as the Tedsmore Estate in Shropshire. Burnie, whose fortune was built on specialist job recruitment in Newcastle, has given millions to charity over a lifetime and latterly over 12 years converted his John Dobson-designed home, Doxford Hall, into a four-star rated 25 bedroom hotel. His intention, explained in an earlier BQ, was always to sell on, giving the proceeds to cancer support in Northumberland – but only to someone like himself, prepared to use local labour and local food produce in the hotel’s running. Parker is a former Anglican clergyman. A career change saw him develop a chain of care homes that he sold in 2006 to focus on rural hotels. He is still active in the church. His wife Gina is originally from Seaton Sluice

David Hunter and attended Newcastle High School for Girls. Knight Frank handled the sale. The new general manager is Morpethborn David Hunter, formerly of the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, the Grand in Eastbourne and Matfen Hall.

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Something cooking: Jason Brown at his newly-opened gastro pub in Durham city centre

SUMMER 10

It bought the centre for £18.2m four and a half years ago. Elsewhere in Newcastle city centre, npower’s 900 call centre staff have relocated to Rainton Bridge Business Park in Sunderland from Carliol House, former headquarters of Northern Electric. The Grade II listed Carliol House, built in the 1920s, will be part of developer Brookfield’s plans for renovation and redevelopment of East Pilgrim Street area. Sure to go are the old Odeon Cinema, despite a preservation campaign, the former Bank of England headquarters at Pilgrim Street roundabout and Dex car park. Carliol House had been considered for a new department store – Harvey Nichols is the name repeatedly rumoured - but it now looks likelier to re-emerge as a four star hotel, though parking will require consideration.

>> A place in the country Nent Hall Country House Hotel at Alston, which dates back to the 1730s, is on the market at an asking price of £995,000 freehold. It has 18 en-suite bedrooms, a coach house restaurant and bars. Sanderson Weatherall is handling.

>> A690 looks leisurely The A690 dual carriageway between Sunderland and Durham could become more leisurely. Former cricket pro Mike Roseberry hopes to build a multi-million pound arena, hotel and superstore, partly on the site of the existing Rainton Meadows Arena at Rainton Bridge Business Park. The former captain of Durham County and ex-England A player is managing director of Roseberry Leisure. He entered the family business on retiring from cricket in 2002.

>> Bevvy with a beat There are no televisions in the newlyopened Fox & Pheasant gastropub in Durham’s city centre, but there will be live music regularly - blues, soul, swing and jazz. The upstairs room also caters for functions, corporate events, receptions and parties. County Durham businessman Jason Brown has launched his venture at The Gates, Framwellgate Bridge, on the original site of the historic Five Ways Inn, creating six jobs.

On site art: Director of Globe Gallery Rashida Davison with managing director of Hoults Yard Charlie Hoult

>> City centre scheme approved A £100m revamp, replacing an eyesore shopping area and existing hotel of the 1960s with three new hotels, shops and offices on Newgate Street in central Newcastle, has the city council’s approval. Only one among 240 businesses nearby objected to the redevelopment of The Quality Hotel and Newgate shopping centre. A pedestrianised street will be introduced and a Listed building on Clayton Street renovated in the scheme by Flamewall, an arm of Irish developer McAleer and Rushe.

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>> Artistry at media site Hoults Yard, Newcastle’s waterfront colony of creative industries, now has an on-site art gallery. This workplace of 400 media professionals employed by the likes of computer gaming company Mere Mortals, regional screen agency Northern Film & Media and The Naked Office marketing firm Onebestway, is using Think Tank – a permanent exhibition space - to showcase the skill and flair of different artists. Globe Gallery director Rashida Davison says: “The venue offers artists and visitors the experience of showing and viewing contemporary art in a building drenched in history. and retaining its industrial past in the undisturbed walls of the building.” After two years in Tynemouth, former investment banker Dale Parr has relocated his young trainer shoes company SoleHeaven to Hoults Yard.

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SUMMER 10

At the same time nearby Ramside Hall Hotel and Golf Club, which has already had a recent facelift, is bringing forward £17m proposals for new golf facilities and more hotel bedrooms. As the plan also includes the building of homes on two separate areas, the proposal would be at a cost to some of the complex’s greenery.

>> Questions over department stores The Dorset stores group JE Beale has bought one of two endangered deprtment stores in the North East, saving 76 jobs. The future had been doubtful for Robbs of Hexham and Joplings in Sunderland, both of which had earlier been sold in 2007 to Vergo Retail, a company now in the hands of administrator MCR.

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Beale has bought Robbs but, says the administrator, no buyer was found correspondingly for Joplings, which served Sunderland shoppers for 206 years and employed 500 staff at its peak. Part of Joplings’ landmark building in central Sunderland was recently the subject of a plan for a hotel.

>> Hotel on target The 169-room Sandman Signature Hotel, rising alongside St James’s Park in Newcastle, is on target to open next summer. It also heralds an entrance to two new central areas planned for the city, Downing Plaza and Science Central, on land where Scottish and Newcastle Breweries once stood. The hotel is a first

venture abroad for Canadian developer Northland Properties. Recruitment of 180 staff is underway. Meanwhile, property group Downing is now working on the second phase of a £30m student village as part of its Downing Plaza scheme.

>> Double success Two North East buildings designed by Ryder Architecture have won Royal Institute of British Architects’ awards for architectural excellence. They are the new Newcastle City Library and Cooper’s Studios, also in Newcastle. The latter, siutated on Westgate Road, is also up for a national award in October. It has already won a British Council for Offices area award against competition from other parts of the North >>

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BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


COMMERCIAL PROPERTY of England, North Wales and Northern Ireland in the best project of up to 2,000sqm class. Cooper’s is within Newcastle’s central conservation area and over the line of Hadrian’s Wall. It was built in 1897 as one of the country’s last city centre livery stables. The six-storey city library has already won many other awards.

>> Transformed town centre sold Waterloo Square Retail Park, with which Henry Boot Developments transformed fashion shopping in South Shields town centre, has been sold in an £11.5m deal to Royal London Exempt Property Unit Trust. The complex features Debenhams, DHS, River Island and Next. King Sturge in Newcastle completed the deal.

Campaigners: Society secretary John Wall (left) with fisherman Billy Hume and John Dixon at Beadnell Harbour

SUMMER 10

>> Double award for green oasis Port Clarence’s RSPB Saltholme Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park visitor centre won two of the eight specialist classes in this year’s RICS North East Renaissance Awards. The judges named it North East Project of the Year and best in Tourism and Leisure, noting how it has transformed 1,000 acres of redundant estuary land into a strongly performing tourism centre in an established industrial area. Out of 79 entries the following were outstanding: • Community Benefit - Winner Newcastle City Library. Commended, A66 Junction, Stockton. • Building Conservation Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle. • Design & Innovation – Roundhouse, Prendwick Farm, Alnwick. • Regeneration - Winner CitySpace, Sunderland. Commended, Quay West, Sunderland. • Sustainability New day services outpatient suite at St Oswald’s Hospice, Newcastle. • Residential The Irvin Building, North Shields. • Commercial - Winner Boho One, Middlesbrough. Commended, Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth.

>> Harbouring ambitions Fishing families given Northumberland harbour 60 years ago have put up a plan to fund its future upkeep. Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society is seeking county council approval to build four homes on land it owns near the 18th Century harbour. Society share of proceeds from the sale of the homes would fund an annuity to maintain the harbour. A gift from proceeds would also go to Craster Harbour in appreciation of Sir John Craster’s original gift of Beadnell Harbour to the village fishermen. John Wall, secretary of the society, says: “This

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Big attraction: RSPB Saltholme Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park visitor centre

is tremendously important to Beadnell, and to the families who have fished from this harbour for generations.”

>> Recipe for growth Greggs is to leave its original Gosforth factory beside the South Gosforth Metro station and build a bigger facility on its newer site nearby at Balliol Business Park, Longbenton. Besides a new bakery creating 30 jobs, there will be a warehouse and logistics centre.

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• Tourism & Leisure - Winner RSPB Saltholme Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park visitor centre, Port Clarence. Commended, Great North Museum, Newcastle. • Project of the Year RSPB Saltholme Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park visitor centre, Port Clarence. The awards recognise inspirational initiatives and developments in land, property, construction and the environment.

>> All talk so far Gateshead Council has paid a reported £5m to buy land on Gateshead Quays that could allow a variety of developments, including an international conference centre.

>> Lawyers leave the river Burnetts law firm has relocated from Newcastle Quayside to larger refurbished premises at Lansdowne Terrace, Gosforth, to accommodate a wider-ranging business law team.

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How broad the band Debate question: How can we maximise the opportunities created by high-speed broadband and tomorrow’s technology and applications to enhance the performance of North East businesses? The lack of provision of high-speed broadband in some areas of the North East is having a major effect on businesses in those areas. Simon Roberson, regional partnership director for BT, opened the debate by stating that, while BT is committed to the region, the geography of the North East does pose real challenges to the universal delivery of high-speed broadband. The panel asked how quickly the issue could be addressed, and discussed the potential for business growth in the region, with and without universal high-speed broadband. The issues discussed included: • The provision of high-speed broadband for all (urban and rural); • Does national Government ‘get it’ when it comes to IT and high-speed broadband? • The role of the planning authorities in facilitating the roll-out of universal high-speed broadband;

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

in association with

• The way we all work now, and the way we want to work in future; • Public/private sector partnerships; • Social versus business use of high-speed broadband; • Is there a more compelling case for rural or urban high-speed access? How great is the high-speed revolution? Andy Hudson, founder, Broadband Computer Company - a former TV producer and director and now a member of the advisory board of Codeworks, Andy explained that his business has pioneered a new computer operating system, Alex, aimed at the over 50s. “My strong opinion is that IT has a tendency to make itself unnecessarily complicated and IT departments in business are as much an inhibitor as an aid to business development. I believe that taking full advantage of high-speed broadband will be inhibited by IT departments, who are now a liability rather than an asset.” Mark Elliott, CEO, Digital City Mark - a filmmaker and one of the principal architects of Digital City, said that the roll-out of high-speed broadband is revolutionary. “We have the information superhighway, but while it’s great laying out the roads, unless we have the vehicles, it’s not. It’s not good enough to leave the Americans to make all the innovation and all the money.” Bill Murphy, MD, next generation broadband, BT, interjects: “The innovation and entrepreneurship in this country matches

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The participants Simon Roberson, Regional Partnership Director North East, BT plc Bill Murphy, Managing Director Next Generation Broadband, BT plc Ian Thompson, Director of Regeneration & Economic Development, Durham County Council Neil Stephenson, CEO, Onyx Ian Brown, Founder, Sustainable Heating Solutions Angus Collingwood-Cameron, Director North East, CLA Mark Elliott, CEO, Digital City Business James Saunby, Consulting Director, Grey Sky Consulting Paul McEldon, Chief Executive, Sunderland BIC Valerie Colling, Chairman, Be-Pod Ltd Andy Hudson, Founder, Broadband Computer Company Marianne Whitfield, Managing Director, Cobweb Business Information Mark Stephenson, Policy Advisor, NECC BQ is highly regarded as a leading independent commentator on business issues, many of which have a bearing on the current and future success of the region’s business economy. BQ Live is a series of informative debates designed to further contribute to the success and prosperity of our regional economy through the debate, discussion and feedback of a range of key business topics and issues.

the US. The infrastructure to match it does not.” Bill explained that his career in BT includes working closely with business and also the roll-out of first-generation broadband. “First generation broadband – we did a much better job than the Americans, because we got it out to 99%. That was achieved because we worked together county by county. We only got to a point where we could do 80%, so the last 14% was done in partnership. “I’d never seen anything in my life where people were so passionate. We built it because people wanted it. “It has to be done locally. That is what worked last time and that is what will work again. There will not be a lot of money about and the decisions will be harder than last time. “I was with a council chief executive a while ago and he was arguing for the railway to go through his key city. His economic adviser was


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DEBATE

arguing for broadband. Those are the choices that are going to have to be made. “Small business will lead us out of this economy. We’re doing a lot of work with the CBI now to bolster the economic justification for a different internet.” Does Government ‘get’ digital? Mark Elliott “But do you think Government really ‘gets’ digital?” Bill Murphy [long pause] “Well... it’s a good question. It’s a qualified yes. At the end of the day, everyone knows what they know. “There are 200 new MPs, but the last time I was in the Commons I was shocked at the level of engagement. I hate to say it, but it is generational. “When I speak to MPs and civil servants I find people for whom there is no question of getting it, and those who say ‘what’s all the fuss?’ We need to educate them. “We have to make our businesses internet savvy and educate them more. We need education and drive. It’s a matter of time.” The rural economy Ian Brown, founder, Sustainable Heating Solutions - a One North East board member with special responsibility for broadband in rural areas, Ian explained his farming background and how he built a business village on a farm in rural Northumberland. By installing a satellite system, it had broadband before the nearest large town. “I came across a book a few years ago called The Death of Distance, and I don’t think that distance has yet fully died. Until we do get universal broadband, distance is not yet dead. “You have to be pragmatic. People will want to choose to live and work in places where the mobile phone does not work.” Angus Collingwood-Cameron, Country Land and Business Association “Broadband is the central utility in rural areas. The business applications are crucial. Our main issue is bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas and ensuring the rural economy is not left behind in the digital age. “You can’t expect people to come and work here in the digital age if they have to live in the dark age.” Andy Hudson “My business partner is a

farmer in Suffolk. He says that most of Defra’s information is distributed online and the people it is aimed at can’t get it.” Angus Collingwood-Cameron “Yes, there is a lot of truth in that, and if you’re in tourism you have to be online. A total of 84% of bookings in Northumberland are done online and if you aren’t on it, you can’t be in business.” The way we work now, and the way we want to work in future Marianne Whitfield, managing director, Cobweb Information - Marianne explained that her company publishes advice for small businesses and start-ups, and for business advisers. “There is a gap in terms of the understanding business advisers have of technology and how they pass that on to their clients. It’s a generational issue. There are creative industries who understand that, but you have to get that out of their heads so that advisers understand it also.” Valerie Colling, chairman, Be-Pod: “We’re a start-up company manufacturing modular work space solutions, one of which is a home office. A major focus of the business is large employers who support their employees in working from home. “There is a large marketplace in the rural areas. There is a massive opportunity, but corporate IT departments can be a challenge – how do they manage the employees

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working from home? We have to understand the barriers and opportunities the employers are facing.” Bill Murphy “Pre-recession, there were more than 2,000 businesses starting up a week at home. My tip would be that we will see government push to transform the workplace – how can they get people working from home and remotely.” Paul McEldon, chief executive, Sunderland BIC: “We’ve got more than 150 businesses on our site and we’ve been going for 15 years. What hits you in the face is how the minimum standard of what people need has changed. “Fifteen years ago, if you turned the heating off, the phones would be ringing off the hook. You turn the heating off now, and nobody gives a monkey’s. You turn the internet off, and you have 150-odd businesses demanding compensation. “People can’t work without broadband. If the computers go off in any business now, people just sit there and look. They can’t work.” Mark Elliott: “We have work units in which you can live and work. When we did the research for them, no-one cared about the kitchens, it was all about how big the broadband was.” Neil Stephenson, CEO, Onyx: “Modern business cannot operate without this technology. For our customers, if there is an IT event in their business, they can’t bill, they >>

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


DEBATE

SUMMER 10

Mark Elliott: “But I can’t agree that watching football isn’t business; it’s just B to C rather than B to B.”

can’t telephone, they can’t order, the business managers can’t go home and continue working, their BlackBerrys are gone. “I had lunch recently with a large law firm in Scotland. They had a power cut and literally, in that moment, their BlackBerrys were off and they had 200 employees in the centre of Edinburgh who couldn’t work. The business just stopped at that moment and they had no protection against it. It was a tipping point for them. “Modern practices have made business more efficient, but also totally dependent on technology. “The World Cup and Wimbledon were bad for our customers because people started watching TV on their computers and the system is not quick enough. My customers are not interested in the web being faster so they can see TV. It’s about business-critical services - sales teams, video conferences, complex business systems.” Business or leisure? Andy Hudson: “Is there a case for two-track broadband, with one track for business and one for leisure?” Neil Stephenson: “One of our biggest

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

customers is the Meat Hygiene Service. They have 600 slaughterhouses across the UK. You can’t eat meat without the slaughterhouses working and you can’t kill cattle in the UK unless the technology works. “Internet-related services run those slaughterhouses. If that doesn’t work for any reason, then the cow lives for another day and we don’t eat beef. That’s the level of technology running across modern networks. This is not about web TV. “But TV clogged the internet up in the last couple of weeks, and if you look at the growth of internet traffic, it’s changed in a scary way. The level of usage is growing 20%, yet broadband isn’t getting 20% faster every year. “The biggest challenge for me is how do we get broadband faster, how do we get it more reliable and how do we put service level agreements on it.” Andy Hudson: “So can we split broadband delivery, so that there are channels for business and leisure?” James Saunby, consulting director, Grey Sky Consulting: “The first generation of broadband was rolled out for domestic use. That’s what paid for the infrastructure. If you separated the two, it would not happen.”

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Private and public partnerships James Saunby explained that, as head of new internet products with BT, he was responsible for setting the agenda which drove broadband in the early years. He also worked in the public sector in the first generation roll-out. “I’m about to deliver a project to roll-out broadband to rural Northumberland. We’ve looked at some of the most inaccessible places in England and said, they need it, so give it to them. “We’ve had a lot of interest from the private sector and we need to look at ways of increasing that, not using public sector money to create public sector networks that compete with the private sector. “In South Yorkshire, they have been given a lot of money to put a network virtually where Virgin has put theirs. What is the point of that?” Bill Murphy: “The UK is very good at fostering competition; some might say too good. The fact is that we have some of the lowest prices here. I think this next generation broadband will create more competition.” Ian Thompson, director of regeneration and economic development, Durham County Council: “We want Durham to be a competitive place nationally and internationally; a place where business wants to go. We’re only 18 months old as an authority, and that has been a real IT challenge in its own right. “We’re thinking there must be a better and cheaper way for someone who knows about this stuff to do it better than us. It is not, after all, our core business. “We think about it in a number of ways; one of which is that we are a provider of services and we want to do that in a simple way for our customers. We thought if people could access hubs and do all their stuff virtually, that would be fantastic. We’re a few years away from achieving it, but as a concept it’s a good way of putting it together. “We’re also the planning authority. Only about 14% of the population has access to high-speed broadband. If you want to be in


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Barnard Castle or Teesdale, it’s difficult to set up your business. “The challenge, as our money is cut back, is to get the private sector to step in. And how do we make Government ‘get it’ at national level?” Mark Elliott: “It is only two Prime Ministers ago that we had a PM who took pride in being IT illiterate.” Size matters James Saunby: “There is one big flaw in all of this, which is that micro businesses are half as efficient as the rest of the economy. If we are pushing more and more people to be micro businesses, are we pushing more and more of our workforce to be half as efficient as they would be otherwise?” Ian Thompson: “Strategically, we do push that line. All right, some of these businesses will not be so efficient, but it’s about tackling deprivation; understanding that you have to start somewhere.” The planning issue Mark Stephenson, policy adviser, NECC: “I think the planning issue is a major one. Whether it’s transport, digital or energy infrastructure, it’s a common denominator. Planning is a hurdle. “Some areas are better than others, but there are as many questions emerging as there are answers with regards to new policy. “It’s also important that competition is fostered. With current policies as regards to local enterprise partnerships, we see private sector and public sector working together.” Neil Stephenson: “Nearly every modern person needs to be able to work at home. If you can’t go home and carry on working, then what do you do?” Mark Elliott: “It’s ubiquitous working. I work in the car. I work on the train, not just at home. The thing about mobile phones is that they never work when you’re mobile.” Andy Hudson: “What about planning regulations. In France, there is a cavalier attitude to planning permission, which is to say that there is a higher authority that says, ‘this is good’, and the local hoops are no longer there. Could BT do its job easier if there were no planning laws?”

Bill Murphy: “No. You do need it. When we put green cabinets in and dig up the streets, you do need to have regulations. It’s not anarchy. We are facing up to fibre everywhere. We have to turn out 30,000 green cabinets. We have 50,000km of fibre to deliver. “It’s about co-ordination and making the best of sharing infrastructure. If a county can help us, we want to have a chat about that. We’re looking at different ways of doing things so that we can get the stuff out there.” Andy Hudson (to Ian Thompson): “Is there a dilemma in infrastructure provision and the planning process?” Ian Thompson: “There’s absolutely no reason why there should be. You will always find, in

DEBATE

Durham city for example, there are always issues to overcome. But no, there is no dilemma.” Ian Brown: “Are state aid rules still held up as reasons why things cannot be done?” James Sounby: “State aid is there if you work with it and do the job. The European Commission has the expectation that broadband will be considered very positively.” Bill Murphy: “Government-funded initiatives coming in and pricing below market, or doing other things that create discontinuity, that’s going to cause problems for everyone. “Sustainability – well, it’s very easy to build anything, but very hard to run things. What happens when someone accidentally digs it >>

Bringing Faster Broadband to the North East Communications networks are crucial to the North East’s economic success and social wellbeing and BT is investing heavily to bring a new mix of broadband technologies and services to the region. Faster broadband is now available to over 50% of homes and businesses in the North East, with nearly 60% coverage planned by March 2011. Super-fast broadband is already available to homes and businesses in Durham and East Herrington, with Chester-le-Street, Hetton-le-Hole, Cramlington, Gosforth, Aycliffe and Ingleby Barwick due to have access by spring 2011 – taking the number of superfast broadband lines in the region to 94,000, continuing BT’s tradition of being a leader in the introduction of mass-market broadband technologies. The pace of development in broadband is breathtaking. It’s easy to get lost in the complications of the technology, the speed ratings and the details of product specifications and we all want to feel confident in the choices and decisions we make at home, at work and on behalf of our community. In the UK, we’re fortunate to have a fiercely competitive broadband market that has achieved high penetration among organisations and people. There’s a thriving ‘broadband mixed economy’ that already offers a choice of broadband services to meet almost every need – whether it’s linking a corporation’s global or national networks, bringing together local communities or providing entertainment and information services to people at home. New super-fast broadband promises an even better user experience with the ability to use more services at the same time over a single connection. New business applications and more sophisticated home and entertainment services will quickly exploit the additional bandwidth and keep demand for ‘better and faster services’ rising. It is frustrating that we can’t have the latest technologies in place everywhere immediately, but the stark realities of a high-level, intensive investment programme call for a staged approach that encourages widespread early uptake. This process of demand-led growth married with continuous technological improvement has successfully driven broadband market growth for 15 years. Next generation broadband requires significant new capital investment at a time when money is tight throughout the economy. BT is already planning to invest £2.5 billion in super-fast broadband reaching two thirds of UK homes and businesses. But in more sparsely-populated rural areas, costs rise sharply for geographic and technical reasons and purely commercial investment is not viable.

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DEBATE

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up? What happens when someone knocks down a cabinet with a car? “Sustainability is very important. We must align our objectives with each county. We must work collectively: what we can do and what we can’t do – how do we turn a can’t into a can? “Having a regional plan, or county plan, or city plan, is important so that we understand what’s important so that we build better networks and better solutions that fit, whatever the economic or social agenda. “Planning must be done correctly and it’s important for business to make its voice heard about what you want and need. We do live in an age of choice. “There will be money for this, and if you have a plan, you can get funding. What’s happening now is that we have villages coming and saying ‘can you do this, or this?’, but it’s harder to do 100 than 1,000. Better to do the whole county.” Andy Hudson: “Who will join all the parts up? There are lots of local initiatives, a national initiative, private enterprise and major providers. Broadband is a convolution of different things. How do we do it?” James Saunby “It’s important to get the scale right. It’s the thing that makes the tipping difference in terms of whether it gets done or not. If it’s too small, it’s too difficult. It’s about getting enough scale so that there is enough money to make it work.” Bill Murphy: “Trying to be dogmatic about fibre everywhere is just not practical. We have to say, what can we accomplish and where can we accomplish it? I have to tell you though, in at least 40% of instances, it’s the wiring in the house that cuts down on speed. “We would love to put fibre everywhere, but there are huge costs. It’s a big commitment. You can dwell on what you don’t do, and you can talk about what you do, and go from there.” Mark Elliott: “But as Neil said, demand is going up 20% a year and speeds aren’t. That’s a train crash in slow motion.” Bill Murphy: “Broadband is for everyone and speeds are increasing. Businesses today can get those high speeds. If you’re a really intensive internet business, that’s available. “There’s no question that video is driving it up.

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educating people in what happens when things go wrong.”

Entertainment is driving the internet quite hard. Remember what it was designed for, compared to what we’ve got it to do.” Education – another tipping point? Marianne Whitfield “It’s about managing expectations. We’re into investing in our systems from the point of view of contingency. There is so much productivity to be gained from putting data in a cloud, but when it stops, your business stops. What’s important is

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Urban v rural Neil Stephenson: “We have a City hedge fund client. If their system is down they can’t see their positions. The market could go against you while your IT is off. That is the criticality of the service.” James Saunby: “The criticality is more important for people in rural areas as it is in urban areas. The Fontburn Trial, where they introduced a satellite and wireless system to a village; the feedback there is that getting the children on to the internet to research homework and social networking meant that families could continue to live there. Before then, people were thinking it was a mistake to live there. It has meant the community can continue.” Angus Collingwood-Cameron: “The ageing population in rural areas – this is a great resource, and they could make a real contribution if they were wired in, both economically and through voluntary action. The problem we are facing is delivery of services to those people, and we need the broadband to enable that.” Andy Hudson: “It’s becoming the social fabric glue of society in terms of the things we need to access and the way we communicate, so the further we can get it towards being a right, as I believe they have now done in Finland, the better. “We would be up in arms if the toilets didn’t work, and we should be up in arms just the same if our broadband doesn’t work.” Mark Elliott: “James said it was more important to get it into rural areas than urban areas, and that’s barking – absolutely barking. It is equally important everywhere. The same ubiquity issue – it has to be universal in terms of geography, usage, location and that’s the underlying fundamental of the Finnish legislation. “It’s 2Mb for anyone anywhere in Finland, it doesn’t matter where. We should have a declaration of internet rights.” Bill Murphy: “Martha Lane Fox has been brought in by Government to deal with internet exclusion – how do you get those 10m people educated and online. She says it’s


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simple – there are 10m people to get online; they don’t need fibre necessarily. Get them online and worry about fibre after that. If you boil it down, being pragmatic, get them online. “Believe me, once you’ve had 2Mb you’ll want 8Mb. Once you’ve had 8Mb, you want 20 and once you have 20 you want 40. It’s about getting an answer we can afford. Maybe we can’t do every village the way we want, but maybe we do the village hall and put 10 PCs in there.” Andy Hudson: “But I’m having a battle with Martha Lane Fox, who says people can go to the library to access the internet. I say, ‘fine, but put your PDA in the library Martha, and you can only use it between 10am and 6pm and not on bank holidays or Sundays’. “This is absolutely patronising to try to impose it – ‘you poor people over there, you can go into the library’. It’s a nonsense; we all need the same rights.” Mark Elliott: “But some people are making a special case for rural areas, and we shouldn’t do that. We should be making a special case for the UK as a whole; no-one then can argue with us.” James Saunby: “I make a special case for the rural areas because if you are in Middlesbrough or Teesside, you can be economically active without having broadband in your home. If you’re in Bellingham, you can’t” Mark Elliott: “No, why does a home worker in Middlesbrough have fewer rights than a home worker in Bellingham?” James Saunby: “This is about individual rights, in which case, yes, you are right. But if you’re looking at it economically – where is the greatest economic advantage? Then are you going to significantly increase the economic potential of Middlesbrough by having BT install high-speed broadband throughout the town, or are you going to make greater economic impact by putting it into Otterburn, where people are isolated from being economically active? “If you put basic broadband in, then at least they can work. It’s a matter of timing and prioritising.” Mark Elliott: “It shouldn’t be about timing or prioritising; it should be ubiquitous.”

So what is the answer – how can we maximise the opportunities created by high-speed broadband in the region? Ian Thompson: “It’s a mix of two things. One is lobbying at higher level. Things need to change and there needs to be investment nationally. That’s about the right to have it. “The other thing is, right now there are practical things people are doing in partnership. We need to join that up.” James Saunby: “I would say possibly the most important thing is that having been involved in first generation and now, this roll-out is more important than the first generation. In 2003, we had the comfort of knowing that people had dial-up and it worked on dial-up then. It doesn’t work on dial-up anymore.” Mark Elliott:“Sometimes I lie awake at night and think there’s someone somewhere

Working in partnership Ensuring that businesses in rural areas are not ‘left behind’ calls for a different approach – working in partnership to fund development and roll-out. A commitment to invest in the development of regional infrastructure from any combination of European, UK, regional, local and special interest bodies can radically change the equation for BT. As other parties commit to meeting costs, BT can extend its own investments deploying more fibre optic cable deeper into villages and the countryside, future-proofing the network. BT wants to work in partnership in the North East. The firm is ready to co-invest in solutions that deliver high quality services and provide real value for public money. It will address priorities - market towns, tourist hubs or particular clusters of rural businesses – proposing effective solutions. If your organisation wants help to open up the latest technologies to rural communities, BT is ready to work with you to make it happen. Find out more about faster broadband in the North East from BT at: www.btregions.com

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DEBATE

with an answer to this and it’s entirely alternative technology and we’ve not challenged people to come up with an answer.” Bill Murphy: “I was in Silicon Valley last month, and some people have some ideas and no-one has a better answer, at least not yet. A lot of it is predicated in getting more out of what we have; making sure the fibre is as future-proof as you can make it.” Marianne Whitfield: “It’s about the right. You want to have people working from home, everyone needs to be able to communicate and at the moment you can’t guarantee that in the North East.” Neil Stephenson: “Right is a wonderful idea, but we should re-emphasise that it should be a priority. That gets lost at the moment because of economic issues. There are other things on the agenda competing against digital. Just re-stating that it is a priority and having groups saying that is vital.” Paul McEldon: “We need to get better at articulating what we want and need. Just faster isn’t good enough. We need to be better at explaining the business benefits.” Bill Murphy: “There is no question that starting up a business, the cost today compared to 20 years ago is very different. There are thousands of small businesses in existence because of ebay. We do have to get crisper about putting the case.” Ian Brown: “This is everyone’s issue. Every decision has to take account of IT and broadband. We have to help this big thing happen, piece by piece.” Andy Hudson: “We have an internet system and the science fiction is that we can deliver Neil’s dream for dedicated stuff across the internet which is uninterrupted by anything else, and at the top level, how can we manage infrastructure so that it can cherry pick data and zip it round the world because it is priority data? At the other end of the scale, what is the absolute minimum delivery acceptable? It used to be dial-up – what is it now? It’s about setting and achieving benchmarks.” n Chairing the debate, held at The Hilton NewcastleGateshead, with the support of BT, was Caroline Theobald, managing director, Bridge Club Ltd

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COMPANY PROFILE

SUMMER 10

Gillian Hall is senior partner of Watson Burton law firm. She has been providing effective legal advice for businesspeople across the north of England for over 20 years. In this article Gillian highlights the need to retain talented people in the north of England.

KEEPING TALENT IS KEY

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T’S a truism to say that we need to keep talent in the north of England. Success breeds success. Recruiting the best makes it more likely that our businesses become market leaders, in turn able to grow and create job opportunities. Post-recession profitability has to be sustainable, so attracting and retaining talent is more important than ever. My own firm has a strong training and recruitment strategy which has a track record of employing excellent people who fit our culture. Over the years many trainees have climbed the career ladder to partnership with us, and it’s always fantastic to welcome new partners who have trained and qualified with us. However, for many people that first step into a career can be a chilling experience. Fortunately there are excellent initiatives to help graduates and young people begin their careers such as Newcastle University’s Enterprise Centre and the University of Sunderland’s Hatchery. What many of our regional companies do not appear to have, however, is a clear strategy for keeping that talent loyal to the region as their careers develop. If bright, trained individuals are successfully recruited by local companies, there have to be more reasons to keep them here. Creating an “intent to stay” is fundamental. The main problem for many businesses is in finding and keeping the best possible middle managers. That is where we appear to be losing pace and position against other regions. ‘Talent management strategies’ are now in place with the most successful enterprises. They make sense in planning the retention of the best people in the face of fierce competition – regionally, nationally and internationally. As one business owner said: “People are not your most important asset. The RIGHT people are.” To drive ahead we have to ensure we maintain the

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POST-RECESSION PROFITABILITY HAS TO BE SUSTAINABLE, SO ATTRACTING AND RETAINING TALENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

Left: Gillian Hall, Senior Partner, Watson Burton

engagement and motivation of the most talented, as they can transform a business. Losing them will affect the future fortunes of the many. The four guiding principles of talent management, according to an international management consultancy firm, are to build a ‘winning environment’ that people want to belong to, establish a talent management mindset, so that all employees make the most of talent and potential across the company, create the means to identify, select and deploy people of outstanding talent and fully engage them. However dry it all appears, once the mechanics are agreed, the pace of a business can speed up. The beauty of clarifying priorities is that companies can commit to an ongoing strategy. This is so much better than relying on initiatives which can disappear just as they are making an impact. Talent retention in the north of England feeds in to the infamous north-south divide, truth or myth, which is said to rob us of many substantial people through the lure of London or increasingly other countries as career destinations.

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Key to eradicating that divide is having a range of high value companies with sustainable, longterm futures on the doorstep. Those companies - and our region - rely on significant talent and innovation to compete on a world stage. We have to look after our talent.

Gillian Hall is senior partner of Watson Burton LLP. Find out how Watson Burton can help you or your business by emailing Gillian at gillian.hall@watsonburton.com or by telephoning 0191 2444 203.


ENTREPRENEUR

SUMMER 10

£33m at 30 must be good

Richer already than some Royals, Sean O’Connor tells Brian Nicholls his unexpected situation does bring some droll moments

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You can’t knock up £33m just a few years after university and not expect friends to josh - especially when they know you’re earning more than Keira Knightley, Cheryl Cole and the Princes William and Harry. Yes, agrees Sean O’Connor, it was quite funny when the latest Sunday Times Rich List came out showing him as Britain’s sixth richest 30-year-old or under. “I’ve had a lot of jokes on evenings out from my friends, like it always seems my turn to buy the rounds!” he says. The clean-cut multi-millionaire looks, on first encounter, like opening bat for Durham County, or the stand-off Martin Johnson badly needs to succeed Jonny Wilkinson if he’s to manage England back to rugby glory. But O’Connor’s lean, relaxed and confident look is about all you might associate with him holding a BSc first class honours degree in sports management. You would, if anything, expect instead a furrow or two on the brow, like many more seasoned City types have been showing. But this entrepreneur, whose trading and investment success started and continues in the North East, entered the wealth list this year largely through his Clean Energy Capital (CEC) venture - still only in its third year and launched when he was 27. Signs are, even better is yet to come. The company, run from Leeds, London and Sunderland, where it began, trades and invests in green energy. It achieves its enviable revenues on a staff of 11, skilled in environmental technology, fund management, investment appraisal, and carbon and energy trading. CEC plc raises money for green energy research then trades the resulting power, recognising that power markets will more and more seek renewable sources of electricity, gas, and fuel. Its trading arm, via big banks, also buys and sells carbon credits between companies that need them and those that don’t in our increasingly regulated environment. It helps at once to provide liquidity and secure lower emission rates. Asked how he’s done so well, he may reply: “We’ve found a niche.” Many besides himself had been thinking about opportunities in green energies, he says. “But many people didn’t understand the sector.”

ENTREPRENEUR

That O’Connor is still £9m behind Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe on the Rich List could be a position changed before long. CEC already looks set this year to more than double last year’s profits from £1.25m to £3m with a £110m turnover, despite a mere 1-2% profit margin on some activities. His acumen at 30 may exemplify that of many among the 771 people from the UK’s 1,000 richest of all ages who are now self-made millionaires. No silver spoons, no luck from the Irish implicit in his name and family background, O’Connor just studied at Northumbria University, got his degree then covered the North East and Scotland as a salesman for Nike. “The big corporate environment didn’t suit me. It’s for some people, but not for everyone.” However, during his nine-year residence in the North East – he’s Bradford-born – he realised options exist. He bought a house off-plan in Gateshead whose value had soared £25,000£30,000 on completion. “It seemed to me,” he says in a soft Yorkshire accent, “that I was earning more off a house in six months for doing nothing than I was in my job at Nike. I thought: ‘There’s got to be a business in this’”. In 2002, with property still booming and he just 23, he ventured deeper into property. He still has a personal portfolio of 40 properties worth about £5m and is a sleeping partner in the online Sunderland estate agency Launchpad Homes. Housing markets, though, are cyclical and in 2005 with the property still going well “but starting to get hard”, he devoted a year to anticipating the next big moneymaker. “I realised everyone who’d done very well creating businesses has done so by getting into a new market at the start. “Once a market matures, it becomes a lot harder to penetrate. I felt I had to build a

business in a new sector. It was a case of identifying that. I felt green would emerge over the next decade.” He chose technologies that could be commercialised to create or dominate key markets, then launched the business. Was it the Kyoto agreement that made CEC? “That was a specific protocol that got people thinking green,” O’Connor agrees.”But Kyoto was just the first of a number of things in this evolving market. Governments all over the world are now worried about what’s to be done about finite energy - Middle East oil and that kind of thing. “They want to look at alternatives. Even discounting the climate change argument, there are logical reasons why people want renewable energy. But the general view is: oil is finite. People only argue over when it’ll run out. “It’s a big concern if the lights go out in however many years, or petrol runs dry at the pumps. So it’s built on more than government concerns about climate change. It’s built also on ordinary people’s concerns. That’s what has created the market.” Kyoto has driven regulation and infrastructural support – enough to offer investors stability necessary to ensure big capital commitments. With a £10,000 grant and helpful guidance from Business Link North East, O’Connor went ahead. With clean energy solutions a major priority globally now – albeit still lip-serviced in many countries and instances – numerous emerging opportunities enable CEC to create new investment platforms for its own funds and those of institutions, as well as for high net-worth individuals. O’Connor explains: “We target best propositions in the sector. We then give >>

It seemed to me I was earning more off a house in six months for doing nothing than I was in my job at Nike. I thought: ‘There’s got to be a business in this’

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ENTREPRENEUR expertise and support throughout a project’s full life cycle – from initial concept through key development and on to full commercial deployment. We also seek to maximise the value available from any carbon credits and energy outputs generated by our investments. “Initially the market seemed small and many didn’t take it seriously. As it has become an issue people realise they have to deal with, and more and more they see things happen, the more they realise it’s a market they must embrace. “Our strategy to help what we can do is partly to attract this new high-net worth group of people we can work with. More people are realising this market is a real commercial proposition - probably one of the biggest commercial opportunities that exist. We’re targeting people who’ve made money in other sectors and who know it’s a space to be in, but don’t have expertise currently to access this market. We do that for them.” Keen to spread green in the UK, he finds however that many barriers delay things that ought to be done. “You’re met by reasons why you can’t, rather than reasons why you can, especially in planning.” Will the new government address this? “You never know. With any change comes a need to make your mark. So there will be changes, and renewables is written quite heavily into the manifesto of the Coalition. But the devil is in the detail. We’ll see how that transpires.” Meanwhile, CEC will continue to foray in the USA, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. China’s a particular target. O’Connor finds through joint ventures and partnerships in technology there that less stringent restrictions allow faster planning than in Britain. He considers North East advances in wind energy, green fuel and zero-emission motoring all great news, and says CEC would welcome more investment from this region to complement that already committed by private individuals here. Investment from individuals and institutions goes into desalination of water, biofuel farms, waste conversion into energy avoiding landfill, algae and even research into eco-towns aspiring to have homes create their own energy supplies. Did he ever think his venture would do so well?

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“I doubt you can ever know how successful something will be. If it works out really well it’s because the calculated gamble you take is going to succeed. Meanwhile, you’ve just got to have a go. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly green individual. I came into this market because it represents a commercial proposition. It seemed it would grow a lot. It has. “But it will only catch on in the mass market if it becomes cheap enough and people can afford to embrace green. It’s not about switching lights off at home. It’s about tackling the source of energy going into the lights in the first place. “Even if everyone turns their lights off it won’t

Personal note Sean O’Connor has broken new ground in his family circle, unable as he is to recall anyone close from a background of financial business. His father’s career: teaching. His mother worked in a newsagent. One of his sisters has a design agency, while the other is a writer. His wife Jilly, 33, is a teacher. “It has been very much trial and error for me, trying to learn what I have done,” he says. Sean and Jilly live in Leeds. He moved there for family reasons in 2009 after nine years a North East resident, mainly in Gateshead. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? “Be totally committed, not just to something you want to do or would like to do - but something you’ve got to do. Go in with the view that even if it fails you’ll start again. “You must have that mindset. There’s a greater chance of your venture failing than succeeding. But there’s no substitute for having a go. It’s worth the effort. If it succeeds, the rewards are great. “But do it when you’re young. Once you have children and more responsibilities it’s harder to take that leap of faith. What’s the worst scenario when you’re young? If it goes wrong you get a job.”

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make a huge difference. That’s what we must understand. It’s about funding the systems that will supply the energy from green sources.” He believes climate change is happening but is phlegmatic, not evangelistic. “If climatechange sceptics are wrong and we do nothing, we have a problem. If they’re right and we still do something then we have renewable energy. There’s no logic other than pursuing renewables.” Despite CEC’s rich returns, O’Connor is not overly sentimental. “My plan is to build CEC to a position where it could be sold, hopefully within five years perhaps. You never know what’ll happen by then though. I’m looking at other projects meanwhile, rather than being linked permanently to any one market. Clean energy is just what’s been very successful very, very quickly.” Can a degree in sports management help in building a green business? “Yes”, says O’Connor. Any degree studies teach two things in his experience. First, to stand on your own two feet by living away from home, perhaps for the first time. “Also,” he says, “you learn how to get top marks and elicit what a lecturer wants from you. Applied later to business, it teaches you to understand what people want - you have to understand what suppliers and customers want. “While directly there may be nothing in relation to what I was taught, there was a general foundation of management, discipline and life skills.” He also gained practical experience in management while he studied. He worked on the Olympic Games at Sydney in 2000. “I managed to get a few more overdrafts and took an unpaid job because I thought it would give me good experience. I was assistant to the athletics competition manager.” And previously he was events manager of the Iron Man Triathlon in Lanzarote. Now he has won the Ernst & Young North and Midlands Cleantech Entrepreneur of the Year award and goes soon to the UK finals. If he wins, it will be on to world finals in the US! Today he rakes in more than he might have done even as a Premiership football club manager – with better long-term prospects! n


INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

Mirror, mirror on the wall

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Little things mean a lot to hotel guests. They add up to rollicking success for a hotel staff too. Brian Nicholls interviews award-winning Guy Hilton and his team You may not have heard of “inspirational moments” that sometimes occur in daily life of a four-star hotel. But if you ever experience them you’ll probably be eternally grateful... n The concierge who lent his spectacles to a forgetful conference delegate who’d misplaced his. n The management team who, without bidding, cleared thick snow on the steep road outside by hand after mechanical gritters had failed to do the job. n The staff who lend their personal DVD players to brighten the evenings of long-stay guests, and. n The general manager who lends cufflinks, ties - even a dinner suit - to guests caught on the hop. It is this manager, Guy Hilton, and his staff who’ve made the Hilton NewcastleGateshead the success it has so quickly become – a hotel with 80%-plus occupancy and now adjudged to be the North East’s best medium-size business in the Service Network at the Culture for Success Awards. Unlike many other awards, these centre less on finance - more on culture and development methods that make a business outstanding and, so, prosperous. Judges visiting Guy Hilton’s establishment were immediately struck by the depth and detail employed in running the hotel. “It’s little things in particular you note about the place,” said one. “There’s a great feel and buzz to the organisation. It stems from truly engaged and motivated staff with good leadership,” said another. They felt hospitality here is upheld as an art, and that while each department has the hotel’s values embedded, these are


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personalised and interpreted in each department’s own way. Hilton always considers first impressions when he stays at other hotels – “a warm welcome, that feeling from whoever you meet initially that they’re interested in you, and why you’re staying there. Only then do you look at the facilities. It’s people looking after you who make the difference.” Sure enough, when this writer neared unannounced and inconspicuous, the concierge stepped outdoors to greet him. Hilton and his team have created a routine for upholding and progressing standards that might surprise many guests whose sojourns have been brightened as a result. The “smile mirror” for example... Hidden from customers’ view, staff look into the smile mirror just before stepping into the public areas. “Smile, you’re on stage,” they tell themselves. “A bit Disney-esque,” Hilton calls it. “But possibly that’s where the idea came from. That whole Disney concept is that if you’re playing a character, as soon as you step foot outside the cast door you’re on stage and playing, and you can’t lose that look.” The idea evolved during a staff brainstorm. “We were talking about how we might just look and think before we step into contact with customers. Smile at the mirror... Make sure you’re well groomed... and go from there. “Our conference and events team take it to extreme and do it very well. We get lots of feedback about our warm welcomes and interaction. We spend lots of time as a management team, and with colleagues, talking about how to improve and that was one idea that came up.” No surprise, then, that the mighty Hilton organisation acclaims Helen Fayle, the conference and events sales manager, as their number one in class for all Europe, or that the Hilton’s twice-yearly independent audit of hotel standards this year rated this Hilton 87% (against 56.15% before Guy became manager in 2007). “Guest satisfaction expressed in surveys is also hugely apparent,” he adds. Testimonials include praise for the generosity of parking space and a “superb” conference and events team. The Culture for Success judges described Guy

Hilton as a role model for the values of the organisation. They note he knows all 200-plus staff by name, and they seem genuinely pleased to see him on his frequent walkabouts. Everyone loves to play for a winning team, as Hilton – a keen sportsman – knows. So staff retention stays high, inevitably helping costs. You might imagine from indications so far that Guy Hilton is a New York high flyer – one of a founding family perhaps parachuted in. But no, the surname is a coincidence. He’s a down-to-earth 40-year-old Scouser, born and raised in the seaside town of Formby. Year for year, though, there can be few more widely experienced in the UK hotel industry. He was 15 or so when career advisors thought him a potential fireman or surveyor. He certainly didn’t want to be deskbound. A family friend in the industry said: “Why not send Guy to a friend of mine, give him some hotel experience and see if he likes it? I could see him doing it.” He worked for two weeks in the restaurant and kitchen of Calcot Manor, a country house hotel in the Cotswolds. “I loved it ... never looked back. I worked in different places, then ended up doing a BSc (honours) degree in catering systems.” The four-year sandwich course at Sheffield City Polytechnic took him to Canada for a year, working for Holiday Inn as part of his studies. Casual and vocational work followed at Tunbridge Wells, also Sheffield – the catering

There’s a great feel and buzz to the organisation. It stems from truly engaged and motivated staff with good leadership

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INTERVIEW

village at the World Student Games and the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn – and an Irish bar at Lake Maggiore. Then, from 1991, into management and further postings: the Regency, Solihull; the Hoole Hall Hotel, Chester; Royal, Llangollen; Lion, Shrewsbury; Howard Johnson Hotel, West Bromwich; Park Plaza, Nottingham; Hilton, Leeds City; and before Tyneside, the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor. He was inaugural manager at the four-star hotel in Nottingham, where he also chaired the Nottingham Hoteliers’ Association and was ambassador and board member of Conference Nottingham, helping to promote the city. “Travel’s essential in the industry,” Hilton explains. “You must experience different things, work in different types of hotels, moving your way up all the time. I did stay with my first company 14 years, so many of my moves were within one company. Moves are never next door though – always one end of the country to another.” The Hilton’s 254-bedroom Tyneside implant, whose facilities include a spa, banqueting suite, seven meeting rooms and a Livingwell health club (with 650 members, shows a very successful fusion of the famous brand’s global provisions on one side and an explosion of community involvement on the other. Politicians, entertainers, footballers and international business travellers checking in expect – and get – services they anticipate at a Hilton anywhere. Yet, simultaneously, the local populace knows it as a venue where local interests are the hotel’s concerns – due again largely to Hilton’s personal involvement. This year Hilton did his second London Marathon run and, at 4½ hours, cut his previous time by 40 minutes. He’s run numerous half marathons, and this year will do his eighth Bupa Great North Run. Fittingly, his hotel is that event’s HQ for a second year. The hotel is home from home for basketball, cricket and rugby league and union thanks to relations built up with Newcastle Eagles, Falcons and Gateshead Thunder, as well as Northern Universities Student Club Community Cricketers Elite, and it’s a key sponsor of Durham County Cricket Club. Social activities vary from Asian weddings to cycling weekends. In 2008, Hilton himself >>

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

completed a charity bike ride of nearly 500 miles between Newcastle and Twickenham, visiting all the Premiership rugby club grounds. He did it with Tom May, the former Newcastle Falcon now starring with Toulon. Charity support like this can be superglue in bonding with the community, and the hotel since its 2004 opening has raised more than £100,000 – largely through staff initiatives. Hilton enthuses about the North East even though he is unable to settle his family here yet. His wife Sarah and their three children - Sophie 10½, Oliver five and Issac just turned one – live at Innerleithen, the Borders home bought during his Edinburgh posting – because they have yet to secure a buyer. So Hilton commutes 152 miles at weekends, and at least by being a midweek resident himself can see almost round the clock how guests are being treated. “It’s a hard routine sometimes,” he admits. “You miss not having time with your children in the evenings.” Thrown in at the deep end in November 2007, he hadn’t time to acquaint himself thoroughly with the North East initially. He started just in time to cope with simultaneous retail, media and entrepreneurs’ conferences. Luckily, he knew the hotel boasted some of the region’s finest views: the Tyne and Swing Bridges, the Quayside and the Quays. “I knew the hotel, what it looked like and where it stood, as I’d actually stayed here, having done the Great North Run a few times. I knew it was the right hotel and the right city for me,” he adds. At one point when he and Sarah thought they’d sold their house, they did get to look around the area with their children. He says: “I think it re-emphasised everything you learn about the place. So much to do, a great place to live in, and I think it will be a fantastic place for the kids to grow up in too. “There’s everything here, isn’t there? You see why people come and never leave. It’s a fascinating and exciting place to work in. We’ve got our grumbles and gripes but everyone around is just so committed to the success of this region.” Just as he worked once for Nottingham’s good as a whole, Hilton now promotes the North East. He works closely with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, chairs Tyne and Wear’s tourism body, is

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

a board member of the NewcastleGateshead Initiative, and has helped the North East drive to bring the 2018 World Cup to England. He says of the region’s ascent in tourism: “We’ve gone far. But there’s a lot of opportunity yet. A large proportion of the

country is still unaware of what we have to offer in the North East. We’ve certainly seen growth in the staycation. We’ve seen family-centric business develop and grow. But you’re always looking at new business for your business and leisure tourism has got legs.” ■

Stay the night, see how you like it Recruitment at the £11m turnover hotel takes in behavioural aspects as well as skills. All new employees are given an initial overnight stay that includes breakfast and dinner, and are asked to answer a survey on consistency and brandstandard delivery. These, like the customer satisfaction survey, are considered and acted upon. In structured training and development there, coaches come in to train managers, and staff have an in-house e-learning facility. Guy Hilton himself, as you might guess, delivers much of the training in inspiration. xEmployees, however, are free to challenge systems, and empowered to deal with situations. They work closely with management on matters such as sustainability, carbon footprint, sales and profit. Individual objectives are set annually and, in between, everyone is kept on their toes by “mystery” visitors’ audits and team surveys. Communication and interaction figure strongly. Besides a monthly news letter, staff have monthly face-to-faces with line managers, “huddle” weekly to assimilate corporate themes and consume motivation daily. In return, they share in reward and recognition schemes. Peers nominate the employee of the month, and they all enjoy monthly celebrations and star staff awards. The Christmas awards include one for the smiliest face. Guy Hilton also holds a birthday dinner and drinks celebration in the restaurant for all colleagues with a birthday during each quarter. As for customers, they recognise a personalised approach, and some are invited to a monthly drinks reception with the management team. So now the Culture for Success Award joins numerous corporate and individual plaudits. Would a Lottery win persuade Guy Hilton to quit all this? “ It would have to be a big, big amount,” he laughs. “I’ve numerous passions in life. One’s mountain biking. If I won that kind of money I could picture myself living somewhere that I could ski in winter and mountain bike in summer. I don’t dream of this though.”

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AWARDS PROFILE

SUMMER 10

Companies from across the region gathered to celebrate how culture forms the root of their success at a major awards ceremony in Newcastle

SERVICE NETWORK APPLAUDS COMPANIES WITH A CULTURE FOR SUCCESS

S

ERVICE Network’s landmark Culture for Success Awards received a record number of applications this year from organisations eager to demonstrate the vital role employees play in their success. After weeks of consideration by a panel of judges, who commended the level of commitment to organisational culture, the winners were announced during an awards ceremony held at Northern Stage. Overall Winners, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, were felt by the judges to be an outstanding example of a prestigious international brand that has personalised its procedures and service offering to the benefit of its staff and the region it serves. The culture and values are lived and breathed from the top down with a real sense of community among the staff. All entrants are judged against four key criteria: staff development; customer service; business growth; and contribution to the region. And they are judged in categories according to the number of employees. The awards have three categories based on the size of the organisation: small (0-50 employees); medium (51-250 employees); large (more than 251 employees) and one overall winner. Category winners recognised were CCS Mobile, Cintra HR & Payroll Services, and Orange. Highly Commended by the judges were BL Hairdressing Training, Explain, NCFE and Nexus. Neil Warwick, who chairs Service Network explains “In such difficult economic times it is those companies who recognise the impact that good employees have on customer service and profitability that will not only survive the recession but accelerate out of it. “The companies shortlisted have demonstrated the key ingredients required for a successful culture and we should be extremely proud to have them on our doorstep.”

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Winners of the Culture for Success Awards 2010 CCS Mobile, a telecommunications company based in Sunderland and winner of the Small Employer category, was noted for its embedded, naturally developed culture that enables it to provide exemplary customer service.

IN SUCH DIFFICULT ECONOMIC TIMES IT IS THOSE COMPANIES WHO RECOGNISE THE IMPACT THAT GOOD EMPLOYEES HAVE ON CUSTOMER SERVICE AND PROFITABILITY THAT WILL NOT ONLY SURVIVE THE RECESSION BUT ACCELERATE OUT OF IT

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The family owned business fosters growth by empowering employees to make critical decisions that will be supported and gives them ability to do deals for which they take responsibility. Its customer churn is the lowest in the UK in the experience of one of its major clients, Vodafone. Cintra HR & Payroll Services, winner of the Medium Employer category, has been described by judges as “a real gem”. This HR and payroll company, tucked away at the top of Gateshead High Street, processes the pay slips of more than 160,000 people a month. Their bureau team process more than £1.2bn worth of BACS payment a year. The judges’ initial impression on their visit was a relaxed environment. They discovered, however, that this belies an ambition, incredible work ethic and a commitment to providing an astonishing level of customer service. The company has ambitious growth plans and has


SUMMER 10

AWARDS PROFILE

Roll of Honour 2010 Commendations Small category (0-50 employees) Winner: CCS Mobile Highly Commended : BL Hairdressing Training; Explain

Medium Category (51-250 employees) Winner: Cintra HR & Payroll Services Highly Commended: NCFE

Large category (251+ employees) Winner: Orange Highly Commended: Nexus

Overall Winner Hilton Newcastle Gateshead invested in developing cutting-edge payroll and HR software. Chief executive of Cintra, Carsten Staehr commented: “As our customers are at the heart of everything we do, the right culture is a key element in delivering the type of customer service that will not only meet, but will exceed the expectations of even the most demanding and discerning of clients. “The commitment to continuously develop our people and meet the expectations of our customers has obviously paid dividends, and we are all delighted that Cintra HR & Payroll Services

About the Culture for Success Awards The Culture for Success Awards are designed to showcase the expertise, talent and passion in the region. Applicants must demonstrate how they have built a ‘culture for success’ over the past 12 months. The awards are open to any company, irrespective of sector, specialism or size. Organisations must show evidence of having developed a culture that fosters success in all areas of the company; from employee development and customer service to the contribution the business has made to regional prosperity.

has picked up this prestigious award.” Orange, a household name in telecommunications, is an outstanding example of a company using cultural and behavioural change to turn the business around. Over the past 18 months this organisation has instigated massive cultural change to drive forward the performance of the business, but also to make it a “brilliant place to work in”. They have developed a Brilliance Programme which links customer service and staff development. Their processes have been redesigned to create as short a passage as possible between the agents on the front line of customer service and the board. Orange won the Large Employer category. Emma Krygier, director of engagement for Orange UK customer services, said: “We are so proud of the award because creating a culture for success means all our people are contributing to and benefiting from the environment they work in. “Winning this award is testimony to the enormous team effort over the last year and commitment at all levels to aspiring to be extraordinary. “This year we have really seen results of efforts made at the start of 2009 in terms of employee engagement, customer satisfaction and advocacy. It is a significant commitment in time and resource to revitalise fully a corporate culture. But it really does turn out to be an investment that pays back many times over.”

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The Culture for Success Awards 2010, was supported by Gateshead College, overall winner of the Awards in 2009. The judging panel included Nadine Hudspeth, Gateshead College; David Bowles, chair of Entrust, Ivan Jepson, Northumbrian Water and Brian Nicholls, BQ Magazine.

Service Network, part of the Entrust group of companies, is the only independent voice of the service sector in North East England. It is a dynamic, action-orientated membership organisation. Service Network’s mission is to provide a stimulating environment for ambitious businesses, both large and small, to learn, grow and prosper. Service Network is part-funded by regional development agency One North East. For further information about Service Network, the awards or the winners call 0191 244 4031 or e-mail talk@service-network.co.uk

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


BUSINESS LUNCH

SUMMER 10

in association with

Life and times Linda Conlon, chief executive of the International Centre for Life, gives Jane Pikett a taste of 10 years of Life in one lunchtime

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

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Linda Conlon and I match. Not only that, but our mutual choice of green and brown outfit also complements the elegant decor of Cafe 21. We are supremely co-ordinated, which is nice. It’s more than a little hackneyed to bang on about women – particularly very elegant, feminine women like Linda – who achieve much in largely male-dominated career environments. Indeed, most of us find it just a tad condescending to even mention all that Helen Mirren, Prime Suspect, woman in a man’s world stuff – it just perpetuates the myths. But it is appropriate to note that Linda Conlon did her trailblazing bit, making her name in regeneration in the rough, tough late 80s and early 90s, when women were a good deal fewer and further between in the corridors of power and attitudes were rather more hackneyed than now. Her role then as director of corporate affairs with Tyne and Wear Development Corporation (TWDC) was, to say the least, a tough one. “I learned a lot about news management, crisis management, and being tough when you needed to be,” she says with feeling. Some might have been hardened by it, but ask her the qualities that are most useful now in managing the International Centre for Life, and the ones she mentions are definitely of the softer sort. “Emotional intelligence, empathising with people, understanding where people are coming from – it’s all important,” she says. “When I was younger, I was sometimes guilty of seeing things in black and white. I don’t do that now. It’s important to take people in the round, and it’s important to have people around you who know more than you do.” Oh, but times have changed. She recalls one of her freelance contracts in PR and marketing, in the days before TWDC. “It was with the Butter Information Council. I used to have to walk around wearing a T-shirt with ‘Go-on, Butter Them Up’ across my chest. Can you imagine?” she laughs. It is hard to imagine the now chief executive of a world-leading science facility in such a get-up, but she’s no fool. “Oh, I knew exactly what was going on and how to get the most out of it,” she says. “It


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served a purpose for a short time.” She was head-hunted by Alastair Balls to join the then-newly formed TWDC, where a freelance contract soon became a central, full-time role in a highly-charged atmosphere. “It was not much loved at the time. We had only 10 years to achieve regeneration and we had to move quickly, but people don’t like change,” she says. “We brought new life to disused riversides, but I spent an enormous amount of time defending it. A week didn’t pass without a crisis, much of it in the media spotlight. But it was a thrilling, exciting period.” The Centre for Life is a different proposition. “It was a complete career change and I had to make a multi-million pound capital project happen. Since opening in 2000, it’s been different again – maintaining something of this complexity is quite a thing.” Life is best described as a science village, bringing together research, clinical and commercial applications, ethics and science communication on a single site, with the aim of promoting advancement of the life sciences. The business model is unusual; it is financially self-sustaining through its own income regeneration and receives no revenue funding from central or local government. It’s open 363 days a year, offers a packed exhibition programme and provides Europe’s largest programme of hands-on workshops. There are lectures, debates, outreach to disadvantaged communities and schools, professional development for teachers and an annual science festival delivered with partners in the city. The Centre has also recently completed a

BUSINESS LUNCH

£4.5m exhibit renewal programme, replacing some 40% of the original exhibition. “I hate to use the word ‘unique’ because it is over-used, but I genuinely believe there is nothing like it in the world,” says Linda. “It’s pioneered new ways of working together. We have a complete university department on site – Newcastle University Institute of Human Genetics – plus two NHS clinics offering fertility treatment. “More than 3,000 babies have been born because of the work there, and if you have potentially genetically inherited disease – breast or bowel cancer, for instance – you go to a clinic on site. There are also small biotech enterprises, educationalists and ethicists. “To sum up, you have research, the application of research, the explanation of research and the ethical dimension. I don’t think there’s anywhere else where all those elements come together.” She acknowledges that bringing together all 500-plus people who work on site is a challenge. “You have to think about how to get the best out of the sum of the parts, by exercising commitment, goodwill and the genuine desire of all the parties to make it a success,” she adds. “We’re trying to create an environment for science to flourish. We’re trying to make all aspects of science interesting and accessible. It’s quite a tightrope, keeping it all together.” Interestingly, Linda has no background in science. “I have a very bad A-Level in biology and that’s about it, but what I do have are generic business skills and I subscribe tothe school that says you can pretty much do anything if you have passion,

I hate to use the word ‘unique’ because it is over-used, but I genuinely believe there is nothing like it in the world. It’s pioneered new ways of working together

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dedication and commitment. “That’s not to say you could let me loose on a brain tumour, but generally speaking, the skills you need in many businesses are transferable. “It’s not my job to be the expert on science. It’s my job to look across the piste and, on >>

Lunch! Jane Pikett and Linda Conlon enjoyed lunch at Cafe 21, Trinity Gardens, Newcastle. Linda likes Cafe 21 particularly for its beautiful decor (“it’s a pleasure to go to the loo here”) and the buzz (“there are always plenty of people in, and it has a lovely atmosphere”). We both dined from the set lunch menu (fabulous value at £16 for two courses, £19.50 for three) and both thoroughly enjoyed a superb pan-fried sea trout with French beans and toasted almond butter. Jane’s star of the show was the wonderfully refreshing chilled tomato soup she had to start, while Linda started with melt-in-the-mouth seared smoked salmon with crushed potatoes and lemon and chive crème fraiche. We finished with summer pudding and left thoroughly satisfied with the whole experience, which was a particularly refreshing treat, and a particularly lovely way to spend a Friday lunchtime. Cafe 21, Trinity Gardens, Newcastle. www.cafe21.co.uk

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


BUSINESS LUNCH the basis of what I see and hear, make judgements to take us forward.” Her approach is common-sense; that of a mother who learned long ago how to work ‘smart’ as they say now, with two young children at home. Her son Nicholas, now 26, a trainee banker with HSBC, rang her recently and said: “Do you know why I’m ringing you now? It’s because I’m into power working, which means doing the low-level things when your energy’s low, hence I’m ringing you now.” When Linda pointed out that perhaps ‘power working’ just meant good, common-sense prioritising, her son ribbed her for being a bit ‘90s’ in her thinking. “Perhaps I am,” she says, “but the application of disciplined common sense says that if you have important things to do, you should do them. That’s just prioritising. “I thrive under pressure, but as a chief executive, your job is to see the ice-bergs coming, not rearrange the deckchairs on deck when it hits.” The controversy that dogged TWDC is now a memory, yet in the fields of genetics and stem cell research for which Life is renowned, there is much ethical debate and Linda still has to deal with difficult questions. “We are as open and honest as we can possibly be,” she says. “I appreciate that being in the middle of a science village which is actively promoting stem cell research, the degree to which you can claim total neutrality is limited, but we get the message across.” She is full of praise for the head of education, Noel Jackson, who has been creating and delivering innovative science-based events based on food recently. He’s a bit of a Heston Blumenthal, it seems. Linda is also a foodie. She says she can get genuinely excited at the thought of a good meal, particularly a good meal out. “We go to a butcher we’ve been using for 30 years – Walton’s in Wark – and to me the sign of the food is the fact that you don’t need to smother it in anything else; it’s good as it is. You get steak that tastes as a good steak should.” She recounts a visit to Dans le Noir in London; a restaurant where you eat a mystery menu, surrounded by strangers, in pitch darkness. It

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

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Forward looking: Linda Conlon believes that many business skills are transferable sounds somewhat creepy, but she enjoyed the science bit. “It was quite an experience, which got me thinking about how all the senses combine when you’re eating. Food can tell a story, and

The CV Linda Conlon is a board member of the European Collaboration of Science and Discovery Centres (Ecsite), chair of its Development Committee and a former chair of Ecsite-uk, which represents more than 70 science and discovery centres, including the National History Museum, Kew Gardens and the Museum of Science and Industry in London. She has advised other bodies in setting up science centres in Europe and the UK and she is also a non-executive director of the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust; a business with a turnover in excess of £700 million.

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we’ve been doing narrated feasts recently. “To mark the anniversary of The Origin of Species, we had a dinner based on Darwin’s travels narrated by Noel Jackson, making links between the food and Darwin. It was very clever, very imaginative.” Those two words might also be applied to the way Life is funded and run. The capital costs were met overwhelmingly from public sources, but there is no public subsidy now. It is a charitable trust with a commercial, fundgenerating arm. “One arm raises it, one arm spends it,” says Linda, succinctly. The money is generated from property rent; the pubs and nightclub, the car park, hiring out the square for events like football screenings. There are also two cafes and a shop, a conference and banqueting business and a new cleaning business. This is a highly entrepreneurial concern. The university and NHS also pay rent, though at lower than market rates. “It’s because we partner them,” Linda explains, “plus, we create an atmosphere in which they can flourish.” Her people management style is of the walking about variety, which no doubt >>


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BUSINESS LUNCH takes some time. “A huge part of what I do involves talking to people. Open communication is very important. Managing our eclectic mix of people is challenging, but so interesting. “We aren’t called the International Centre for Life for nothing, and many of our scientists have international status. What is unusual is that we bring them together. The synergy created brings fantastic results.” No doubt this is why those attributes of emotional intelligence and empathy work so well. “Yes, and recognising that, although you might be right, it doesn’t help if the other person does not emerge feeling they have got something out of it too.” The interaction of the disciplines at Life is not its only unique element. “We also demystify science. Life is relevant and well used. It’s not on a business park out of town. It’s here, it’s colourful, it’s bold and inviting. Science here is not a turn off; it’s part of life.” There are challenges of course. How Life grows for the future is tricky – if for no other reason than it is landlocked in the centre of Newcastle. Clearly also, the current economic climate causes some concern, but at present some 400,000 people a year use the site for all its different functions. Has it achieved what it set out to do? “Yes and no. Originally, we conceived it as something to deliver research, education and engagement, and commercialisation. The research has expanded hugely, which is a reflection of the excellence of the programmes. The commercialisation has not grown at the rate we expected and the educational engagement has developed faster.” Just a note on education – pre-schoolers to octogenarians-plus all enjoy the workshops in the state-of-the-art facilities. “We’re creating memories, experiences and places for people to indulge their curiosity,” says Linda enthusiastically. She is good company; down to earth, funny and self-deprecating. Professionally, she has taken opportunities as they have presented themselves, with a modest nod to being in the right place at the right time. When she was in the midst of the planning for

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

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We also demystify science. Life is relevant and well used. It’s not on a business park out of town. It’s here, it’s colourful, it’s bold and inviting

Life, she was unafraid to ask questions of the construction partners. “I’d sit around a table with them – all men – and tell them, ‘I’m not a fool, but I don’t know your industry, so tell me’. I don’t think many men can ask questions like that. They’d rather pretend they know.” Her home life is very contented. Husband Robert is a very busy retired former Ofcom executive, “and it’s very nice to go home at night and find everything tidy,” she says.

With son Nicholas working away and daughter Elizabeth, 23, also away, training to be an actor, Linda has a bit more time now to indulge her loves of theatre, walking, travelling and cooking. And eating – Cafe Lowrey, near her Ponteland home, is a haven. “And I do get a thrill from a lovely meal out like this one,” she says, polishing off an excellent summer pudding courtesy of Cafe 21. I really should do it more often...” n

The science bit On May 27, 2000, the International Centre for Life opened its doors. Life was created with the aim of uniting business and academia while promoting public understanding of a fast-growing area of science. As a Millennium Commission Landmark project, more than £90 million was invested to transform the derelict 10-acre city centre site in the science village it is now. Here’s the science bit: n Life is an independent, fully self-sustaining charity. Its principal parties are Newcastle University and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust n Life has attracted international acclaim as a centre for excellence, achieving spectacular results in the fields of genetics and stem cell science n More than 500 people from more than 30 nations work there n In 2005, scientists based at Life were the first group in the world to successfully clone a human embryo n Around 200,000 visitors a year experience exciting, hands-on science at the Life Science Centre, which was named North East England Visitor Attraction of the Year 2008 n More than 3,000 babies have been born with assistance from the NHS Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life n Newcastle University’s Institute of Human Genetics, based at Life, has held the highest possible grading (5*) in the national Research Assessment Exercise since 2001 n Life’s education facility, Lifelab, is the largest provider of formal taught science workshops in Europe, providing more than 40,000 educational experiences to school students every year The future aim of Life is to continue to engage the public in stimulating scientific learning activities and debate and to further encourage pioneering research into genetic disease. A series of events to celebrate the 10th anniversary will take place throughout the year. For more details see: www.life.org.uk

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BROWN ON WINE

SUMMER 10

BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown enjoys a truly sparkling evening with four of the best champagnes from renowned producer Laurent-Perrier Champagne moments? What are they? Weddings, birthdays, reunions, new jobs, old jobs you’ve finally managed to shake off. Maybe that’s why we don’t always remember how good – or otherwise - each individual champagne tastes. Too excited. Too caught up in the moment. Too many glasses, to be precise. What did we drink on our wedding day? Not a great deal, I seem to remember. A case of pink champagne from M&S for the fabulous reception, held at the home of my new in-laws. Later, my brother called on a mate from the Big Lamp brewery to refresh the guests at the evening ceilidh, after which I had to drive into deepest Northumberland – to Linden Hall in Longhorsley, where a complimentary bottle of Moet & Chandon lay in wait in the bridal suite. I seem to remember we decided to finish it over breakfast... Not that it seems to trouble the younger generation. A case of 12 bottles of Lanson for our daughter’s 18th birthday party last Autumn was disappearing a mite too fast for my liking. We just about managed to spirit one away, to enjoy as a family at a later date. So “name your favourite champagne moment” is nowhere near as tough as “name your favourite champagne”. You recall

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Something to celebrate: Jeff Brown and wife Susan enjoy some lovely bubbly the feeling it creates, rather more easily than the taste it left behind – exquisite though it may be. In the light of which, to be asked to sample a few, just for the hell of it... Put it this way – we’ve been set tougher tasks. With four to check out, we naturally required some assistance. Hey, we weren’t about to pop them open, swish around a couple of mouthfuls and leave all that “party in a bottle” go cruelly to waste. So, a call to old friends Iain and Amanda, and it was into the back garden, inside the gazebo, under the stars. And, armed with paper, pencils and clean glasses, the four of us set to work. First up was the Laurent-Perrier cuvee rose brut. The “best-selling rose champagne in the world” claims the house. And we could see why.

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A terrific way to kick-off the evening. Smooth and fruity, splashes of strawberry and raspberry – perfect for a summer celebration, and admirably-suited to the garden setting. We could have called it a halt there and ticked off another memorable night. Only there were three more bottles waiting patiently in line... Next we turned to the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, which – and here, much thanks to the wonders of the worldwide web and one of its many instant French-to-English sites – promised: “A unique assembly of great vintages and exceptional years... conjugating with elegance, potency and delicatesse.” It may well have lost something in the translation, but we got


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the gist. We also got the buttery, slightly honeyed overtones of a wonderfully drier concoction which went superbly with the fish course – a whole salmon, poached in a fish kettle, which took two of us to lift out. That alone deserved another glass, after a pause for a short history lesson. King Louis XIV was – it is claimed – the first French monarch to drink champagne. The years of his reign became known as the “Grand Siecle”, or “Great Century”. So, with a nod to that magnificent era, this one appears in a slightly bulbous, 17th century-style bottle, with the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes coming from vintage years at 12 of the most prestigious vineyards. NOW you know why it’s so expensive.

BROWN ON WINE

Third on the sort of wine list which had rarely, if ever, graced our humble garden, was the Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut. No need to call for the assistance of a long-forgotten French ‘O’ level. This one would be dry. Very dry. Stunning taste as well. Preferred by super models, apparently, on account of the unique absence of sugar – and a perfect accompaniment for oysters. Of which we were right out. Sharper than its immediate predecessor, and one for the more serious champagne drinker. Not that we weren’t giving it our serious consideration, despite the lateness of the hour. And so to the final hurdle. Sorry, bottle. Good old Laurent-Perrier brut L-P. The one with the gold foil top which you’re more likely to pick up in your local supermarket – though

certainly none the worse for that. Cool and crisp, the “standard bearer for the house style of Laurent-Perrier”. Again, don’t take that as any kind of apology. They’ve been doing it for just short of 200 years, so they’re pretty good at this sort of thing by now. The brut L-P is a blend of slightly more chardonnay than pinot noir. Very drinkable on its own, and a thoroughly decent way in which to round off the evening. We needed a touch of sweet, after the dry. And also a long lie-in. n Laurent-Perrier is available from Oddbins, Majestic, Waitrose, drinksdirect.com and selected online and high street specialists. Laurent-Perrier Brut, £34.99. LaurentPerrier Cuvée Rosé, £59.99. Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut, £43.99. Laurent-Perrier Vintage, £43.99. Grand Siècle, by Laurent-Perrier, £100.00

Have big ambitions. “ It was a very unlikely start, and if you did any analysis you’d say, “Don’t do it, it looks ridiculous”. We were trying to compete with a very well established and wealthy global leader, and we had nothing.” Dr Tony Trapp, who founded The Engineering Business in 1997 and sold the company to IHC Merwede in 2008. IHC Engineering Business now has an order book of around £55 million.

To read more about Tony’s story visit www.ifwecanyoucan.co.uk/entrepreneurs/tony-trapp

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s core values underpin its ongoing success. Those who have been there, experienced the tough times and the elation of success sharing their wisdom with those who aspire to follow in their footsteps.

For more information call 0870 850 2233 or visit www.entrepreneursforum.net

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TRAVEL SUITS USED TO BE THE POOR RELATIONS OF THE TAILORING WORLD BUT BIG ADVANCES IN THE MANUFACTURE OF CLOTHS MEANS THAT HIGH-END FASHION IS NOW HIGH-TECH TOO, AND, AS CHRIS PORTER DISCOVERS, THE TRAVEL SUIT IS REAPING THE BENEFITS AND BECOMING A BEST-SELLER

You rose at dawn and have sat on a plane for five hours, during which time you spilt your tomato juice over your trousers. Woken at your destination, you find you have used your jacket for a pillow. You arrive looking like a bag of rags. And you must go direct to your presentation. The art of business dress is less in its choice as its upkeep. If, according to image consultants, people have made a lasting impression of you within the first seven seconds of meeting, your sense of cleanliness and tidiness counts for more than your choice of tie – which is why sales of performance suits are booming. “It’s out best-selling suit now because it’s practical and hard-wearing,” says Mark Baxter, head menswear buyer for Austin Reed, whose two-button single-breasted ‘travel suit’ – in charcoal, black or navy, with a skirt suit also selling well – is made of a Super 100 high-twist yarn with memory properties, meaning that creases quickly drop out and the suit is adaptable for most climates (good if you are flying, for example, from Helsinki to Honolulu). Baxter adds: “Business people are looking for more performance in their suits whether they’re travelling or not. As face-to-face contact becomes more important to securing business again, they want to be able to stand up in an afternoon meeting and look as fresh

as they did when they arrived at the office. Performance is a way to maintain smartness. It's the top issue in business dress now.” The technical limits of achieving this are evolving every season. Marks & Spencer has its new Ultimate range – 10 styles made from a similar high-twist yarn, together with a Stormwear coating that makes them water (and tomato juice) repellent. Ted Baker has even extended its Endurance line of classic herringbone and checked suits into eveningwear, with a dinner suit made from a stain and crease resistant fabric. Its Ultimate Travel Suit design has even included a NASA-patented interlining to help regulate body temperature.

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Also on the High Street, Burton now has a suit made of a wool-Lycra-polyester blend: the wool provides breathability, the Lycra helps it retain its shape and prevent creasing while the polyester content means that it can be machine-washed and drip-dried overnight, requiring perhaps only a light iron. Styles with a special lining with anti-bacterial properties are also in the pipeline, allowing the weary executive to smell as good as he looks – especially those who, as Burton’s senior buyer Kevin Panter notes, are typical in tending to both over-wear a suit (ideally it should never be worn two consecutive days, with top end suits typically good for only one day a week) and dry/steam-cleaning it less regularly than is ideal. Panter says: “Travel suit design has moved on to the point where the level of blending in the fabrics is such that most people would not notice the difference between it and a standard 100% wool suit.” And that, he concedes, has long been what has dissuaded many from exploring travel suit options. “There are certainly those businesspeople who wouldn’t touch anything that wasn’t 100% wool – that’s their benchmark of quality,” he adds. “But others, and younger customers who have grown up with technical fabrics, are more concerned about the performance benefits. The nature of business seems to >>

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Business people are looking for more performance in their suits whether they’re travelling or not

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demand them now.” Undoubtedly there are downsides to the more whizz-bang business suits: blends tend to be less breathable, for example; with washable suits, it tends to mean that floating chest pieces and other distinguishing characteristics of high-end suits cannot be used, with a more basic construction arguably meaning sacrificing better fit; even a pure new wool option, using a high-twist wool, invariably means that only a medium-weight suit is possible and one with a certain look and texture too – variety of weight, weave or handle are lost. And yet even the most upmarket of fashion brands are now making moves into the travel suit market. Paul Smith has its London line, with crumple-resistant wool and mohair blend suits; Gieves & Hawkes has created a high-twist yarn suit; its Savile Row neighbour Ede & Ravenscroft uses a two fold warp and weft fabric that is naturally springy to help maintain shape after extensive wear; perhaps most impressively, Zegna, the Italian luxury tailoring and fabric manufacturing company, has moved into technical tailoring too. First came Zegna’s Miconsphere Traveller Suit, using nanotechnology to ensure that dirt floats on the surface of the cloth, rather than impregnates it, and is easily wiped away. Now it is pushing two new developments. Its High Performance Cool Effect collection is designed to allow the wearing of traditionally dark business suiting in sustained sunshine without its wearer over-heating; the woollen fabric >>


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FASHION

SUMMER 10

is specially treated to allow it to reflect 80% of direct sunlight much as white fabric does (typically a dark fabric would reflect only 20% of sunlight; contrary to wide belief, dark fabrics don’t ‘absorb’ heat). Nor does the treatment affect the touch of the fabric. Equally impressive is its new ultra-light business suiting. It is cut from a woollen cloth, the fibres of which are just 13 microns in diameter – which is to say very small, akin to a Super 210, with a metre of the fabric weighing just 180 grams. Tailoring with very light fabrics is a tailor’s nightmare, since the fabric lacks sufficient substance to hold shape. Yet Zegna claims that, fully canvassed and constructed, its ultra-light suits are as elegant as any. If you have ever felt weighed down by your suit, this featherlight alternative may be the solution. Zegna’s is just one of the advances bringing high-tech to high-end. Indeed, according to Panter, the two worlds – that of the luxury suit and that of the performance suit – are slowly merging. “The future of business tailoring will all be about further fabric development,” he says. “It will happen that fabrics will offer all of the performance benefits but the look and feel of 100% wool. And there will be further deconstruction that will allow even the best-made suits to undergo washing, for example.” Indeed, in maybe a decade, a suit that doesn’t crumple like a plastic bag, breaths whatever climate you are in, shrugs off stains, can be put on a quick wash at home and retains a quality fit and lustre comparable to a more upmarket suit of today, may come to be the norm. “The fact is that people get used to performance and come to rely on it,” says Austin Reed’s Mark Baxter. “They are already expecting more and more from their suits and what are now advanced performance benefits will come to be regarded as standard.” n

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www.paulsmith.co.uk


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CUTTING A DASH The Swiss Army Knife may be an iconic brand but after 9/11, its maker Victorinox realised that the only way forward was to diversify into other products. Chris Porter reports

“It was the biggest challenge faced by the company in its history,” says Carl Elsener, the fourth generation of his family to run the company established by his great-grandfather Karl in 1897. “We sold a lot of knives on-board and through Duty Free and a huge quantity to corporations, who had their logo put on them and gave them away as gifts. Suddenly everyone was telling us that this really wasn’t the time to give a knife as a gift.” Elsener, CEO of Victorinox, makers of the Swiss Army Knife, adopts a serious tone while remembering the event that might have closed the business, especially since the circumstances happened out of the blue and utterly beyond his control. The company was already beset by counterfeiting, mostly out of Asia, “And when the quality of a copy is getting close to the original, but at half the price, then the only solution is to invest in the brand,” says Elsener. “People will pay more for a brand because they’re buying an element of trust and because they know brands have to invest in customer service.” But this event was a sucker punch. 9/11 saw

sales drop 30% in a matter of weeks, and the company encountered a new climate in which it did not look like surviving. Suddenly, nobody was allowed to carry a knife on a plane. Elsener responded with radical surgery for the company, which has just embarked on a retail expansion drive that will see its 30 brand stores around the world grow by five a year for the next 10 years. Struggling with internal doubts among those who saw the company only as a maker of knives for more than a century, and the battle to get others to understand that a broader brand development was necessary for the long-term survival of the company, he drove through Victorinox’s reinvention as a lifestyle brand. The company now makes, under license, luggage and clothing, watches and fragrances, with sunglasses and footwear under consideration for launch in a couple of years. And with 9/11 the shift from being Europe’s biggest maker of knives – it produces some 35,000 Swiss Army knives plus around 60,000 domestic and other knives every day, with knives now only accounting for 40% of output

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– to a brand that sought to instill other products with the same sense of solidity and functionality began in earnest. “The shift was at times a painful one, especially getting used to how fast the fashion industry moves,” Elsener admits. “The Swiss Army Knife is a very functional product, not driven at all by fashion and, for example, some people here tried to adapt the philosophy of the knife to clothing. There was the notion that we could design one jacket and that would be the only jacket you’d ever need, like having the one knife...” On the other hand, there has been much in the company’s favour as it has extended its remit. One is the sense of reliability that has come from owning the definitive penknife, a little design icon. This, after all, was the gadget that armed forces around the world adopted as the standard after 1945 (India’s has become the latest army to put in an order for 1.3m knives, and 40,000 are still made each year for the Swiss Army), that is carried by NASA astronauts, that, even in an electronic age, “can still light up the eyes of a boy >>

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when he is given his first knife,” as Elsener has it. “Getting your first Swiss Army knife is symbolic of moving into adulthood. And even in a hectic, modern world of cities the appeal of the outdoor life that the knife suggests is still important, maybe moreso than ever.” The other benefit has been the knife’s very Swiss-ness, with all that national stereotype might suggest about high design and technical excellence – qualities that are especially appealing to the booming Asian markets. Not that this is applicable to just anything. “The more licenses we have launched, the more we’ve been asked to launch – for mineral water, for cellphones, for office chairs... They’re not all bad ideas but we just can’t imagine an office chair sitting alongside our other products in a shop just yet. You can get carried away and lose control of your brand for short-term profit.” Indeed, if discipline might be perceived as a Swiss national characteristic, the family behind Victorinox make for a benchmark case. In 2000 those Elsener family members involved in the company put all their shares into a foundation so Victorinox’s future could not be disrupted by, for example, inheritance issues. It also ensured that growth is sure but steady and the company remains financially

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independent. It seems fitting that company founder Karl Elsener named it after his mother, Victoria. “I think we’ve always looked at the company as though it’s been entrusted to us by our parents for responsible management,” says Elesener, who is one of 11 children himself, and whose own children already work for the business. “And with other generations coming up, it means that there’s a business philosophy of always trying to set a good example. You can’t ask people to do something you won’t do yourself. You can’t ask management to fly economy while you fly business.” The subject of flying takes us back to a sore point in the Victorinox world. Elsener always carries two Swiss Army Knives with him, a small model that fits on a ring with his keys, and the Traveller, complete with an alarm clock and a very Boy’s Own-appealing altimeter. “And yes, I’ve forgotten to pack them away and had knives confiscated from me at the airport,” he says. “It’s annoying and often sad. It’s easy to get attached to a particular knife, and for it to have special memories. But it’s not too hard for me to get a replacement.” ■ Victorinox available in the London flagship store, 95 New Bond Street, W1.

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WHITE Lightning

The new BMW M3 convertible is a genuine four-seater geared towards motoring in all four seasons. And, as Neal Holloway discovered, it’s also got jaw-dropping looks and steam aplenty (if you’re a seven-year-old)

When I was asked if I’d like to do a car review for BQ magazine, being a bit of a petrol head, I of course agreed straight away and my mind started racing as to what the car could possibly be. I wasn’t disappointed when the car turned out to be the new BMW M3 convertible. I showed my son (George, aged 7) online what I would be driving and his comment was that it must be really fast - after all, it’s got four steams (his word for the exhaust pipes). Well George, I’m pleased to report that it is really fast and the sound it makes is fantastic (but more on that later). The M3 was dropped off at the hotel and first impression was that it’s a staggeringly pretty but aggressive car to look at with the big

The roof really makes the car a no-compromise alternative as open top to full cover takes only around 22 seconds power bulge and air vents in the bonnet, chrome detailing and the flared wheel arches housing some beautiful 19”alloys and low profile tyres. And, finished in Mineral White

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metallic paint, the car also looked stunning. I already drive a 3 series diesel BMW and the difference when they were parked side by side was staggering. The interior was finished in black leather with many of the switchgear and more functional items familiar to me from my own car. This seems to be the norm now for most manufacturers and it seems logical but disappointing for a car that costs almost £60k. However, that said there was some nice M series detailing, such as the coloured stitching around the wheel and the logo on the gearshift. This model was equipped with the MDCT 7-speed twin clutch gearshift so you have three modes of driving: normal, automatic, >>

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INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

What Bob says ...

using the stick shift either up or down to change gear, and also the F1-style gear change on the steering wheel. This makes the car very easy to drive fast or to dawdle around town, while you also have the option of speeding up the gear response times to suit the mood you are in and when you want to go absolutely flat out there is the M button that you can pre-set to your requirements ready for those days when the roads are clear! Oh, did I forget to mention the roof, which really makes the car a no-compromise alternative as open top to full cover takes only around 22 seconds with a proper roof and glass rear windscreen. This ensures the M3 is a car for all seasons and the way it unfolds is like watching a Transformers movie - it’s so brilliant, I urge you to check out the BMW website as you can see a movie of this. My kids watched it again and again. I had a chance for a quick blast over to Crook with the roof down and the fantastic Harmann

Perfect partners: Neal Holloway and the BMW M3 convertible at the Radisson BLU Hotel in Durham, where he is manager Kardon music system turned up. The sound the car makes when you accelerate sends a shiver down your spine and it’s actually worth having no music on so you can properly hear that 4.0 litre V8 roar. As you can imagine with all the technology and power on board, there is not much on the road that can keep up if you put your mind to it and the car is very, very quick on all roads, though I especially loved driving it on nice and twisty B roads that made the chassis really come alive.

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All in all a fantastic car and if you’re looking for a powerful convertible that suits all seasons and can take four adults, then there are not many other options that will give you similar performance and comfort for the money. n The BMW M3 Convertible driven by Neal Holloway is priced £66,055 and was provided by Fawdington BMW, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE2 4LE, tel 0191 261 7366, www.fawdingtonbmw.co.uk.

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The BMW M3 was originally launched in 1986 and was an immediate success. BMW had started racing the M3 in the Touring Car Championship, which demanded there had to be a road-going version on sale. With a 2.3lt engine, which produced 215bhp and 146mph, it was a sell-out success and won just about every major race. Limited editions, usually faster with bigger engines and subtle styling tweaks, were released before original production ceased in 1992. Later, BMW unveiled a hardcore CSL (Coupe Sports Lightweight) version of the M3, which was 110kg lighter than the normal model. The car had a limited production run of 1400, available in only two colours. To lose weight, BMW used knowledge gained from its Formula 1 racing team, constructing the roof from carbon fibre, removing the car’s sound insulation along with the electric seats, sat-nav, streo and air conditioning (though BMW did reinstall the latter two free of charge if customers wanted them). All of this made the CSL was exhilarating to drive and felt like it was on steroids! The latest M3, launched in 2008, was given a 414bhp 4.0lt normally aspirated engine that scorched to 60mph in 4.7 seconds and sped on to 155mph (180mph unrestricted). Some 22% lighter, the latest model also has a carbon roof in both the coupe and saloon versions. The latest M3 is available with a six speed manual but BMW have fitted their excellent dual clutch M-DCT box, which transforms the car with lightning speed gear changes. The M3 is one of the best cars to drive on a daily basis, and the dual clutch gearbox transforms the car. Bob Arora is an independent car reviewer and also owns Sachins restaurant on Forth Banks, Newcastle. bob@bq-magazine.co.uk


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INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

DRUM CRAZY There’s more to business than banging your own drum, Andy Anderson finds as he upskills percussion sales and tuition to match changing needs of customers. Brian Nicholls chats to him in a quieter moment >>

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Marching to a new beat: Andy Anderson has taken advantage of social, regulatory and technological changes to develop his business Andy Anderson’s drum business is on a roll now he’s had backing from hard-hitting members of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Paul Weller’s band. Percussion from his Drum Shop UK Ltd serves all kinds of musical styles and supplies professional musicians and educational needs across the UK. A drummer himself for 30 years, and heading a business he has developed over 16 years, Anderson decided two years ago that a few more skills to his Gateshead business offset would stimulate growth. The business beat was rapidly changing with: n Greater interest in music at schools, particularly in drumming. “Around 15 years ago, schools were more into strings,” Anderson observes. “Now a drumming community has developed”; n Growing public concern bringing regulatory safeguards against child abuse. Whereas music shop owners randomly distributed lists of music teachers for their customers to

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approach, now instrument sellers like Anderson are expected to check anyone they recommend to teach young musicians through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). “We make sure everything is in place and vetted,” Anderson says. Drum Shop staff themselves tutor young drummers now too, teaching them to read music – “the only way to really learn percussion”. And they’re qualified to put them through exams. Simply banging in hope of a fascinating rhythm no longer satisfies many customers; n Technology, too, has made drumming more socially acceptable.

Customers still call occasionally for guidance after neighbours’ complaints of noisy rehearsals bring council officials round with their sound meters. But sounds can be dampened now. For example, the Drum Shop’s own three dedicated teaching booths in a converted Washington warehouse have electronic drum kits with controllable volumes. At home, too, players can strike out confident the only sound will be coming through their headphones. They can accompany their favourite tracks on iPod or CD player disturbing no-one. The cost of this “love thy neighbour” extra >>

Sales fluctuated when I wasn’t in the shop. There was clearly a need to identify skills gaps and develop staff

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INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

is now down to around £370. But there were business aspects of the Drum Shop in need of attention. Anderson admits: “My time was taken up with day-to-day operations. Sales fluctuated when I wasn’t in the shop. There was clearly a need to identify skills gaps and develop staff.” Anderson, 45, turned to Business Link North East for advice and support. A training and development programme it drafted soon enabled staff to gain adult qualifications in teaching. A Business Link adviser also recommended learning and mentoring programmes, enabling Anderson and his manager Mick Cape to develop people management skills and motivate and manage their six-strong working line-up. Two have gained the teaching qualifications to staff the dedicated teaching facility in Washington, while a third has taken customer service training to NVQ 2 level. An adoption of Quickbooks accounting software and stock system allows speedier identification of profitable and non-profitable areas of the business. And the firm is now working towards Investors in People status. Through Business Link, the Drum Shop UK is also better equipped to market, forecast cashflow and plan the business generally. Anderson says: “Training has made a real difference. The team is more focused and motivated. And I’m able to devote more time to business strategy and looking at opportunities for growth.” Also, heavily reliant on internet sales, the company needed financial support to improve its e-commerce website, which it gained from the North East England Investment Centre. But it’s the opportunity to learn from masters that will probably impress aspiring players most. By calling on contacts in the industry, Anderson has been able to set up drum clinics where visiting top-line artists pass on skills by example. Recent clinics have been led by Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Paul Weller’s bandmate of 20 years and more, Steve White. Drumming is a great way to shed workaday frustrations. How long, though, does it take to become a skilled player for sheer pleasure? Anderson says: “That depends on how much

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

ANDY ANDERSON’S FIVE GREATEST John Bonham, Led Zeppelin Buddy Rich, own band, Tommy Dorsey Keith Moon, The Who Ringo Starr, The Beatles Steve White, Paul Weller

...and BQ’s FIVE Greatest Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman Max Roach, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown Louis Bellson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington Ginger Baker, Cream Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett Trio

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effort you want to put in. “If someone tells us they want to play along to a swing record we could get them swinging with some of their favourite tracks – if they put the practice in – within two or three months. Keep practising and they could be reasonably good in six to 12 months.” Anderson and Cape recognise, however, that drumming technologies and styles are continually evolving. That requires some globetrotting to keep up. A recent visit to California has reinforced Anderson’s view and he says: “There are always different things coming out, both in the instruments and in their playing. People are always trying wild and wonderful things. There are so many techniques and playing styles. I’ve learned a lot, for example, about death metal, a style for very fast and loud music. It’s very hard but popular with many young people.” He’s right. American heavy metal band Slipknot exemplifies the style - and has sold more than 14m records. As for product awareness, Anderson fears British manufacture – once among the best in the world - is waning, whereas lots of the equipment now made in China, Taiwan and Japan is very good. Anderson prefers US kit, more expensive but high in quality. Gillian Middleton, skills adviser at Business Link, has no doubt the beat will go on. She says of the Drum Shop UK: “The business has gone from strength to strength through Andy and Mick’s enthusiasm and commitment to developing themselves and their staff.” Changed days, then, since Anderson hung around the local music shop as a 16-year-old, hankering to pick up sticks and brushes. Later he played clubs with local bands, and cut records in Holland. It was after working in the drum department of a shop for some years he got the chance to take over an established drum repair business, which he did with barely £500. From selling second-hand kits, he took the business further. One thing Business Link and his own intuition has taught him is that no drummer dare miss a beat. In drumming, and in the drum business especially, he who hesitates is lost. n Business Link: tel 0845 600 9 006. www.real-innovators.


COMPANY PROFILE

WINTER 10

Over five million pounds has been invested into regional businesses in the first half of 2010 following the launch of the groundbreaking Finance for Business North East programme.

INVESTMENTS TOP £5 MILLION

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HE region’s £125 million ‘super-fund’, which was launched in January and is the only one of its kind in England, has completed 24 deals in its first six months of operation. Each of the six funds in the portfolio has now invested with deals completed totalling £5.3million. Twenty two North East based businesses have benefited, with two deals being co-investments, and a further £7 million leveraged from the private sector. Interest in the funds has been extremely strong – both in the region and further a field – with 700 applications to date split across the six funds. Andrew Mitchell, chief executive of North East Finance, which manages the programme explains: “We’ve been open for business since in the spring and are delighted with the progress made so far and excited by the quality of the investments made. The standard of the applications has been very impressive and the pipeline is strong which is exactly as it should be. “The fact that these deals have secured £7million additional co-investment from private sources is encouraging and demonstrates the impact public sector intervention can make. These funds can make a major difference to the future of the North East over the next five years which is why we fought so hard to get them.” The aim is to support over 800 businesses across all sectors through loans and equity investments before 2014. FUNDS IN FOCUS ANGEL SUPPORT: Tyneside manufacturing outfit, Preforma Limited, has been one of the first to benefit from the new funds landing £150,000 from the North East Angel fund. The £7.5 million fund, which works closely with business angels, has been set up to invest in growth businesses at an early stage in their development. Managed by Rivers Capital Partners,

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the success which we all believe it can be.” NOMAD TECHNOLOGY: The North East Technology Fund has also made its first investment injecting £750,000 into Nomad Digital – a leading provider of on-board IP connectivity to the rail industry. The investment forms part of a larger £1.25million financing package for the company, which delivers high speed wireless network solutions for transportation fleets. Created specifically for the technology sector, the £25million fund invests Left to right: Neil Salvesen, BEL British Engines Limited, in businesses like Nomad addressing Jonathan Lamb, BEL British Engines Limited, Gary Smith, the demand for seed and development Preforma Limited, Richard Butts, Ward Hadaway, Natalia finance. It is managed by the IP Group Blagburn, Rivers Capital Partner and aims to stimulate interest from private co-investors with investments WE VE BEEN OPEN FOR BUSINESS SINCE IN up to a maximum of £1.25million. Magnus Goodlad, chief operating THE SPRING AND ARE DELIGHTED WITH THE officer of IP Group plc, the manager of PROGRESS MADE SO FAR AND EXCITED BY The North East Technology Fund, said: “We are very pleased to be supporting THE QUALITY OF THE INVESTMENTS MADE Nomad at a stage of significant growth and look forward to contributing it works with businesses across all sectors with further to the development of the business. The strong management teams, generally investing Fund has a strong pipeline of exciting technology between £50,000 and £150,000. businesses based in the region and we look Prefroma will use the investment, which includes forward to announcing the completion of further £50,000 from Newcastle engineering group British investments over the coming months.” Engines, as it looks to turn its guardrail system into a commercial reality. It hopes the patented design will be used on projects like the new Tyne Tunnel and sports stadiums and power plants around the world. John White, from Rivers Capital Partners Limited, said: “We are delighted to have completed the first Further details about the Finance for Business deal from the North East Angel Fund. We spotted North East programme can be found at the product’s potential immediately. I’m sure that www.northeastfinance.org or by phoning North Preforma, which is just the type of business which East Finance on 0191 211 2300. we are looking to invest in, will go on to become

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Whether scaling part of Everest, winning awards or arming for the general fight to economic recovery, the things entrepreneurs do now will be vital to progress in our region, shorn as its public sector now is. Brian Nicholls reports

That’s the way to do it! Inspiring stories, advice based on experience, and a liberal sprinkling of controversy to spur entrepreneurs of our region in these hard times – it all cropped up at the annual business conference of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Seven speakers from diverse backgrounds passed on their wisdom. Forum chairman Tom Maxfield said what puts off most people from going it alone is fear of failure: “What if no-one buys? What if it’s the worst idea ever?” The Forum was set up to answer those questions and to harness ideas, he pointed out. He wants Prime Minister David Cameron to have someone examine the Forum’s record and use its experience to tackle the problems of why so many businesses fail in their first or second year. One person who did clear the hurdles is Lord Kirkham, founder of furniture retailer DFS. He had addressed a corresponding Forum gathering five years ago, after buying back DFS following its 11 years on the Stock Market. He wanted to get back to basics and think long-term again. Privatisation took nine months of “aggravation and hassle”, negative headlines and borrowing for the first time – £350m. “I loved the spotlight and thrived in the rough and tumble and the pressure from the merchant bank. It encouraged us to grow,” he said. Now knighted and in the House of Lords, he still draws on values of hard work, high aims and patience, learned as a boy in a Yorkshire mining village. DFS grew through an innovative and £1bn advertising spend focused heavily on “love or loathe” TV adverts. For Lord Kirkham listening to customers, finding the best people and creating a “can do” culture are critical. “You can’t succeed by doing what suits you. It must be what the customer wants,” he advises.

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It was his recent decision, at 65, to sell the business for good that most held his audience – “no easy decision. But I would rather take the lift to the top and bow out there,” he said. Timing was influenced by tax implications: “If I waited another five years I would have had to sell for three or four times more just to net the same. Tax planning is important.” The main driver, however, was his neglect of succession planning. He had no family member to take it on, no natural successor from inside. Advent International, however, convinced him they would look after DFS people. Surveying the economy Dennis Turner, HSBC’s chief economist, said that before the recession there’d been 63 consecutive quarters of sustained growth – the longest run since records began in 1870. The economy grew in real terms by 55%. Then: “We depended disproportionately for growth, jobs and profits on consumers and governments which spent and borrowed too much. We hadn’t enough investment and export.” Ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown had turned conventional economic thinking on its head. “There was no money in the rainy day tin.” Of today’s deficit he says: “When you have a series of deficits you’re adding to cumulative debt. We can borrow cheaply, are politically stable and have a reputation as a country that pays its debts. It’s the cost of servicing the debt that should worry us.” Reducing the public sector’s size was inevitable. “But cut too quickly, too deep and you run the risk of slowing the economy. The way out isn’t just by cutting spending but by generating economic growth also.” His magic numbers for a stable economy: 2% inflation, 2.5% growth and interest rates 4%. But there are signs of recovery and Turner

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believes: “Manufacturing is at a 15-year high and manufacturing is terribly important. It’s a cracking time to start a business. If you can get everything in place at the lowest point of the cycle, when recovery comes you hit the ground running.” Private business holding the key to regional recovery to compensate for the public sector cuts provided some hope for Jon Moulton, investor and recent rescuer of the UK arm of Reader’s Digest. He said cutting the £163bn forecasted deficit by £6bn this year was grossly inadequate – “air rifle pellets against battleships. For every £1 of income, the Government spends £1.36.” Moulton, whose 2000 bid to buy Rover failed, warned: “The North East hasn’t many big private sector employers. You should be frightened about public sector cuts. But if you want your economy to grow you must get the private sector going.” Jo Elvin, the Australian publisher who launched Glamour handbag size in 2001 to become a top selling monthly nine years later, says: “Handbag size was a big risk, but something all but one of our competitors have since gone on to emulate.” Running a fifth generation family supermarket business founded in Blackpool in 1847, Edwin Booth is credited with updating it. He joined at 18 in 1973 and has since negotiated better discounts from producers, launched electronic point of sale and stock

It’s always possible to do something that other people suggest you shouldn’t do


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control, rebranded and, recently, developed a cost-price sharing relationship with Waitrose. “It’s always possible to do something others suggest you shouldn’t do,” he observes. Focused on quality food and drink – and customer service not customer processing – Booths has stayed ahead of major chains in the North West, though it’s locked in a battle of wills now with Tesco over the site of a new store in Lancaster. He advises: “We can’t win the battle of numbers but we can win by being savvy, cute and swift on our feet.” Entrepreneurs should be open to suggestions from anyone, he added – an idea from a 28-year-old in his business has led to www. everywine.co.uk, an on-line shop of 36,000 wines selling to customers across the UK and mainland Europe. Host Guy Browning introduced a relative newcomer to retail. At 28, and with two successful ventures already, Darren Williams now aims to grow his hair extension business into a global brand. Despite his 50% hearing loss, he and his fiancée Angela Place have developed Hair X-Tensions Ltd from their home on Wearside to an operation in a 2,700sq ft warehouse with more than 22,000 customers. “The secret to selling on the net is to get a high rating,” he suggests. “If you search on the word Hair we are now on page four of more than 250m sites. We have a guy in the Ukraine working monthly on the site.” Williams also heeds customer feedback. Meeting a request to set up a telephone order business raised turnover by £40,000 a year. The final speaker, Karen Darby, started one of the UK’s first call centres before being one of the first to spot potential in offering consumers price comparison information. Now her Call Britannia is a pioneering commercial call centre, pro-actively employing the long-term unemployed or people facing barriers to work, like the disabled and single parents. All frontline staff are from a priority group, and 2.5% of all revenue goes to a foundation helping staff take their next career step. “They’re in jobs adding value to the economy. People are learning highly transferrable skills,” she says. n www.entrepreneursforum.net

INSIGHT

Entrepreneur of the Year: Anne Ganley. Lifetime Achiever, Bob Thompson and Emerging Talent, Chris Peacock

Anne back to earth but not for long Everest trekker Anne Ganley crowned a week of achievement by winning an Entrepreneur of the Year title. Anne, just back from her 14-day Everest challenge, scaled the heights at home with the award received at an Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner following its annual business conference. Before more than 300 of the region’s entrepreneurs and guests, Anne said: “Not many people say I’m a woman of few words but I really appreciate this, thank you.” And off she went! Mark Hatton, senior partner of Ernst & Young who presented her with the award, described her as a woman “with a heart of gold, and a nuclear reactor as an energy source. Her will to win is bewildering. She’s a real survivor in an incredibly tough and tight market. She has really stood out in the last year.” All adult life, Anne has run the business her father started and, since 2008, has owned Sunderland-based Thompson Building Centres and Taps plumbers’ merchants outright. She’s a past regional chairman of the Builders Merchants’ Federation, representing the North nationally, and holds a string of personal awards. Emerging Talent award went to Chris Peacock, group managing director of his family’s Newcastle business Peacock Medical Group. Said Mark: “He has breathed new life into the business, bringing new energy, ideas, passion and a spirit of adventure.” Lifetime Achievement award went to “true Geordie patriot” Bob Thompson, of Pyeroy, which supports a range of sectors industrially. Mark said: “He’s been in business almost 40 years, and his business is recognised as best in class, doing fantastic work across the UK.” Bob? He felt “humbly embarrassed”, crediting his success to everyone working for him over the years. The awards were designed and made by students: Donna Hindson and Stacy Burke (Newcastle College) with Katya Andrushkova researching; Raymond Dance (Newcastle College); and Rob Winter (Sunderland University).

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North East bosses hit the heights An exhausted but exhilarated party of entrepreneurs who’d set out to trek 40 miles to Mount Everest’s Base Camp have voted it, in retrospect, one of their hardest but most rewarding challenges ever. Effects of altitude, freezing temperatures and the sheer energy and resolve demanded were beyond some. But all the trekkers – members or associates of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum in the North East – agreed they’d never known such camaraderie and support when teamwork encouraged those at the lowest ebb to achieve their goal. The trip, organised as a personal challenge, has raised £50,000-plus for Show Racism the Red Card, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and other charities. Carole Beverley, the Forum’s chief executive, was one of nine who reached Base Camp at over 18,000ft, four hours’ further trekking from the original base camp of Edmund Hillary, which others reached. She says: “No-one ever whinged. There were some broken spirits, and tears. Because of the altitude some were fighting something they

simply couldn’t beat. But there was always support.” Dr Tony Trapp of IHC Engineering Business, Riding Mill, and another trekker, Eddie Czestochowski, of Cell Pack Solutions and CPS Hobbies, South Shields, singled out Anne Ganley as “inspirational”. Anne, of Sunderland-based Thompson Building Centres and Taps plumbers' merchants, was brought down by severe altitude sickness on day one. But, said Eddie: “After three days she picked right up. Nothing would stop her. It inspired me.” Besides Tony, Eddie, Anne and Carole, look out for Ian Phillips (EEW & Co), Ann Bell (Datasafe & Goldstar Couriers), Kamber Kimti (Thompson Kimti Accountants), Victoria Shorthouse (mature student and sister of Forum member Georgie Cameron of Admiral PR) – plus John Last (director, Royal Bank of Scotland), Phil Kay (chief superintendent, West Midlands Police) and Don Cowper (Show Racism the Red Card charity), the Forum members' guide. They’re sure to have rosy cheeks! n

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High climbers: North East entrepreneurs on top of the world – almost

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Ed Laughton: all the way to the top of Everest in a separate North East triumph

Ed goes all the way Sherpas will be used to Geordie accents by now. Besides the Forum’s expedition, another Tyneside climber tackled Everest recently – and reached the summit. Well experienced Ed Laughton, sponsored by Vango the camping and outdoor brand, is now one of only about 2,500 climbers to achieve the arduous, sometimes fatal, climb to the 29,028ft (8,848m) summit of the world’s highest mountain. He trained mentally and physically for months to raise awareness and money for two causes: the Himalayan Rescue Association, a not-for-profit body giving medical care to foreign trekkers and local Nepalese from a yak herder’s hut, and Everest ER clinic at Base Camp. This helps tourists who fall ill on the mountain, and local people with no medical care or insurance. Ed, 30, grew up in Lincolnshire but he and his wife Jen, also 30, now have their home in Gosforth, Newcastle. He studied town planning at Newcastle University, specialised in urban design and worked for North Tyneside and Sunderland councils. Jen, a GP, is a volunteer at the clinic, while Ed volunteers with both Nepalese groups. They expect to work there in 2011. The first conquest of Everest was claimed in June 1953. New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzig Norgay coincided it with the Queen’s coronation in London.


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COMPANY PROFILE

SUMMER 10

Sunderland Software City is taking the North East software sector to the world this autumn as it leads a week-long trade mission to China.

NORTH EAST SOFTWARE SECTOR STRETCHES FROM SUNDERLAND TO SHANGHAI

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UNDERLAND Software City is taking the North East software sector to the world this autumn as it leads a week-long trade mission to China. The trip, organised with UKTI and One North East, gives local companies a chance to explore new markets and meet new customers, as well as opening up opportunities for joint ventures with other international software companies. Software City is the regional initiative supporting the growth of the software sector in the North East and working to make the North East the location of choice for the international software industry. “Our aim is always to go the extra mile, but on this occasion we’re going almost 14,000 miles in one week,” laughs CEO Bernie Callaghan. “The software industry truly is a global one – our website has been visited by people in 74 different countries in the last quarter alone – and the nature of the sector means North East software companies can provide their service to businesses in other countries just as easily as they can nationally. “The key is offering the most effective and innovative products and the quality of the software coming out of the North East means we can compete on such a global level. “China is a massive market, not just in terms of its sheer size but also in terms of its increasing economic power. This is a country which has been experiencing double digit economic growth while much of the world has been in recession”. The trip will not just see North Eastern companies selling their products and expertise, but the North East sold to Chinese companies as the perfect place to invest. “Software is a weightless industry so it doesn’t need major infrastructural investment to locate here. The biggest attraction for any company is a talented, innovative workforce, and that, together with the quality of research coming out of our universities, is increasingly what gives the North

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(l-r) Bernie Callaghan (Sunderland Software City), Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine (DPIvision), Mahmoud Elsaid (LamasaTech) and Arron Gilbraith (Inventive Technology)

THE SOFTWARE INDUSTRY TRULY IS A GLOBAL ONE – OUR WEBSITE HAS BEEN VISITED BY PEOPLE IN 74 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES IN THE LAST QUARTER ALONE East an edge,” says Bernie Callaghan. “Not only does a joint mission give us a more prominent presence at the events we’ll be attending, it really demonstrates to the rest of the world the scale and quality of the North East software industry”. Five companies – LamasaTech, DPIVision, The Mustard Corporation, Inventive Technology and Nurvex – are taking part in the trip Sunderland-based Inventive provide UK-based helpdesk and IT solutions to international customers building their British and European presence. “It might sound pretty unusual for foreign companies to be outsourcing their customer services in the UK rather than the other way

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around, but it’s a testament to the growing software industry in the North East, that we’re one of the few areas with the technical skills to make that such a compelling offer,” says MD Arron Gilbraith. LamasaTech MD Mahmoud Elsaid – whose company develops software for interactive touchscreen computing surfaces - shares Arron’s enthusiasm. “We think our products are going to get a lot of attention in China. One thing we’re working on is an interactive dining solution which gives restaurant goers a new and unique dining experience, ordering food from an interactive touchscreen menu which can track their habits and filter out food they don’t like or are allergic to, then letting them play games while they wait for their food to arrive – anyone who has seen the size of a menu in China will understand the benefit of that!”

More information on: Sunderland Software City is available from www.sunderlandsoftwarecity.com and on 0845 872 857, info@sunderlandsoftwarecity.com and @sunsoftcity on Twitter.


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SUMMER 10

It’s a sky high celebration Back in 1935 no-one could have forseen a grass runway, with oil drums and rags for runway lights, becoming the resounding business success that Newcastle Airport is today. On its 75th anniversary, Brian Nicholls recounts a stirring tale of North East resolve

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Celebration is a word that fits perfectly with Newcastle International Airport’s 75th anniversary this year, particularly as the airport has just overcome a series of challenges that are unprecedented. It was already recovering from the effects of the global recession - the first of its recent sequence of big challanges - when the worst winter for 40 years piled up heavy snow, and then clouds of volcanic ash carpeted the skies. Remarkably, staff kept the airport open through 97% of the atrocious weather. And when European aviation was grounded for seven days by Iceland’s sky-haunting ash – the worst closure of airspace since World War II – Newcastle was one of the first airports to reopen, and the only one to stay open, taking in diversions from the paralysed


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remainder of the country. It was first to take in the UK’s initial transatlantic flight after the ash threat receded. Dave Laws, the airport’s chief executive since 2007, says: “Fortunately, the ash didn’t affect us as badly as others. We could take lots of diversions. Operationally, this went very smoothly, ensuring our reputation with airlines remained strong.” Inevitably the recession has been adverse, with passenger numbers down to 4.6m in 2009 against 2007’s peak of 5.6m, and turnover down £3.6m to £351.5m in the year to last December. But it has still scaled 81 places to 100th in the new North East Top 200 Companies list just published by The Journal. With London the busiest internal destination, and Palma and Amsterdam most popular abroad, revival is expected – especially since new services are to include Ryanair to Oslo, Flybe to Hanover (year round) and Guernsey (peak summer), besides greater frequency for Brussels, and additional holiday flights. Jet2.com, for example, has announced a summer schedule with five new direct routes: to Prague, Krakow, Alicante, Faro and Toulouse. Around 3,000 people work at the airport, with another 2,000 occupied indirectly. It puts £400m into the region’s economy and serves not only 2.5m people of the region but many others from elsewhere. Despite global economic instability, the airport’s prized Emirates link with Dubai showed passenger traffic up 23% during the first quarter of this year, helping Emirates Group to a record profits rise in 2009-10 of 248%. In return, annual trade between the North East and Australasia is up by £100m to £300m since Emirates arrived in 2007, UK Trade & Investment reports. Emirates now plans to recruit 700 more flight crew in a year, and has been recruiting cabin staff in the North East. Of course, it’s not just today but all the days before too that have helped this airport become third largest in the North of England, after Manchester and Liverpool - serving around 28 airlines. A BQ colleague, Alastair Gilmour, has shaped the airport’s 75 years into 27,000 words, writing an official commemorative book - “a

I loved reading up on the UFO sightings and talking to some real characters who had worked there in the 1950s

All change: Newcastle Airport has come a long way since the days of its first control tower (above) while the departures hall (below) is now an international hub voyage of discovery,” he says. He found human interest stories – a theme throughout – absorbing, as too the business side, not only more recent events such as the low-cost travel driven by easyJet, along with the confidence-building patronage of global brand Emirates, but also the development of a much-loved Dan-Air service. Old accounts and ledgers, newspaper cuttings

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from 1935 on, and thousands of photographs were painstakingly sieved during eight weeks’ research. “I loved reading up on the UFO sightings and talking to some real characters who had worked there in the 1950s,” Gilmour says. Laurie Berryman, manager UK North for Emirates, tells BQ he never doubted the North East’s capability to support a daily scheduled service to Dubai (and on to scores of other destinations) when he made a case for it. Peter Elbers, a senior vice-president of KLM, tells BQ also that his airline hopes to further step-up the Newcastle link it has enjoyed for 25 of its 90-year existence. What would Laws most like to see now? “After the amazing success of the Emirates Dubai service, a New York service would be a headline goal. And in general, our aim’s to ensure Newcastle grows to its full potential and continues its crucial role in regenerating the regional economy.” Later this year two package trips to New York are planned from Newcastle. Might these prove a launch platform for scheduled service? “Let’s hope so,” says Laws. “We’re continuing to work extremely hard to secure a scheduled New York service at some time.” Meanwhile, a less exciting but still crucial goal is to halt rising taxes. Like many in the industry, everyone behind Newcastle Airport hopes to dissuade the Government from imposing a tax per aircraft handled as a sequel to passenger duty introduced last November – all unique to Britain and purportedly a “green” tax to minimise aviation’s contribution to the carbon count. Airports also want compensation for their enforced closures during the ash crisis. “We’re working to achieve this and feel compensation would be right. But, given the economic climate, we’re no more than hopeful,” Laws adds. He’s cheered, though, about progress of the airport’s current 10-year master plan running until 2016. A £60m investment is envisaged, though that was before the bankers screwed things up for everyone. However, says Laws: “We’ve achieved a lot already - the terminal extension, tower relocation, new fuel farm, Southside apron, a hotel and a petrol station development. >>

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Aviation will undoubtedly be hit by policy decisions, especially taxation. But we expect to grow once the economy recovers properly.” Laws, like Burt Lancaster in the 1970 classic film Chicago, knows his airport like the back of his hand. He’s worked there since 1978, as a fire officer first, then rising via many departments, including health and safety, personnel, passenger services, aeronautical relations and commercial affairs. If he

sees a bright future, we all must. Gilmour, meanwhile, has compiled the story of Newcastle Airport as everyone there felt it should be written, not too technically or “anoraky”. Gilmour says: “I’d always thought it a particularly fine regional asset. But delving into its history has also given me insight into how the North East economy, its infrastructure and its people are inextricably linked to it.” n

1935 to 2010 – a spectacular climb! 1920s-1930s Newcastle Aero Club, the country’s oldest flying club founded in 1925 (now Northumbria Flying School) used an airfield at Cramlington, moving to Newcastle Airport when that opened 10 years later, and in time contributed indirectly to the transformation of the airport. When the then Secretary of State for Air, Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister, opened the airport on July 26, 1935 it comprised a grass runway, clubhouse, hanger, workshops and a garage with petrol pump. The runway lights were empty oil drums lined up and filled with oil rags to be lit as any landing aircraft neared. The £35,000 cost – a £1.8m equivalent today – provided a facility similar to many other small airfields then. The first scheduled service was a call-in between Croydon and Perth in Scotland. For this, North Eastern Airways used an eight-seat Airspeed Envoy aircraft. 1940s-1950s During the War the airport was requisitioned as an RAF auxiliary base. When handed back in 1946 it had a new wooden air traffic control tower built on stilts. In 1951 the aero club shrewdly appointed former RAF fighter pilot Jim Denyer as its chief flying instructor. The following year he was made airport commandant, then manager, and he became the dynamo driving the airport’s development until retiring in 1989 – 37 years later. Croydon-Perth was followed by Hunting Air Transport’s service to Bovingdon in the South East, and further routes – Dublin, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf – came after. Package holidays began to the Isle of Man, Isle of Wight and

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Channel Islands. Passengers recalled “sardine tin” transport and checking into a terminal that comprised of just “a few wooden huts”. By 1954, there were 35 scheduled services weekly with passenger totals at 5,500 yearly. 1960s Formed in 1963, a North East regional airport committee (comprising the local authorities of Newcastle, Gateshead, South Shields, Northumberland, Durham, Tynemouth and Sunderland) brought impetus and four years later Prime Minister Harold Wilson opened a new terminal. Sunshine holidays became more exotic with Spain especially popular. Within six years, passenger totals were 700,000 yearly. 1970s In 1978 the airport gained “regional international airport” status and introduced short and medium-haul scheduled services. Expansion envisaged a 4,000sq m terminal with a new passenger pier and airside departure lounge. The £8m development drew £2m of financial support from the European Community. Jet aircraft gave package holidays a lift. The first wide-bodied jumbo jet arrived from the US carrying 380 passengers. 1980s Passenger totals reached 1m. Check-ins, catering and duty-free facilities improved. A new parallel taxiway cut planes’ turnaround times and simplified movement. Scheduled routes, internal and external, grew and diversified. By decade’s end passengers totalled 1.6m.

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1990s Metro rail linked airport and city by 1991 and, despite reductions elsewhere, passenger numbers continued to soar to 2m (charter holiday traffic went up 43% in 1992-93 alone). With £25.6m turnover, Newcastle International stood 117th among the North East’s top 200 companies. The Princess Royal opened a bigger and better terminal in 1994. 2000s Passenger totals now 3m. Prime Minister Tony Blair opens a £27m terminal extension, doubling the size of the check-in hall, in 2000. The first low-cost airline into Newcastle, Go, replaces collapsed local airline, Gill Airways, and links with Stansted. In 2001 the seven local authority shareholders – South Shields now South Tyneside, Tynemouth now North Tyneside – sell a 49% stake to Copenhagen Airport (private sector). In 2002 a Metro extension brings Sunderland closer. EasyJet intensifies Newcastle’s low-cost flying revolution in 2003. Another terminal extension follows in 2004. With passenger totals topping 5m, Newcastle becomes the fastest growing regional airport, serving 86 destinations. Plans for a new business park and four-star hotel unfold in 2006. Emirates introduces the first ever scheduled daily longhaul route to Dubai. A new £8.2m control tower opens in 2007. In 2008, Samson private aviation business was acquired as the airport plans redevelopment of its entire south side, with the £20m business park and expansion of Newcastle College’s Aviation Academy.


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COMPANY PROFILE

SUMMER 10

Tees Valley Unlimited has agreed its two main ambitions for coming years which it believes will help the area burst through the barriers to investment.

BRINGING DOWN THE BARRIERS

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EES Valley Unlimited’s (TVU) ‘statement of ambition’ looks at the issues and options the regional economy will face in the coming years and aims to ensure the foundations are in place to create the right economic conditions for positive progress. It will look at making the region more attractive to business, in particular by taking advantage of the commercial opportunities presented by the need to reduce carbon emissions across the UK. It also wants to increase the number and type of businesses in the area and to ensure that Tees Valley residents can all match their skills and knowledge with access to appropriate job opportunities – which in turn will make the local economy less vulnerable to economic shocks. Sandy Anderson, who was recently appointed chairman of TVU, explained: “We believe that we are in an excellent position to take advantage of the global need to cut carbon emissions, by growing our science base in industrial biotechnology, producing chemicals, plastics and fuels from renewable sources, by exploring carbon capture technologies and by developing new routes to power generation. “We believe Tees Valley has the potential to be a major player in the development of these low carbon technologies – bringing jobs and investment to help our own economy and that of the UK as a whole. “We are in the fortunate position of having private sector partners on board and with their vital input we are able to put forward a compelling case for investment. “Tees Valley is ideally placed to attract a wide range of investments with road, rail, air and sea transport networks to rival anywhere in Europe, a highly skilled workforce and coast, country and culture right on the doorstep.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Above: Sandy Anderson, chairman, Tees valley Unlimited

WE BELIEVE TEES VALLEY HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE LOW CARBON TECHNOLOGIES – BRINGING JOBS AND INVESTMENT TO HELP OUR OWN ECONOMY AND THAT OF THE UK AS A WHOLE “TVU has set targets in relation to jobs, investment and skills and aims to work tirelessly on behalf of the people of the Tees Valley to achieve them.

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“Our goals are realistic because in the past ten years Tees Valley has seen its largest increase in employment since the 1970s and still remains home to the UK’s largest integrated heavy industrial area – firm platforms for growth. “There is already a potential £8bn of commercial investment in the medium term with interest in setting up biofuel plants, energy from waste plants, port developments, an oil refinery, nuclear power and maritime wind farm construction. “Our programmes on employability, skills, neighbourhood renewal and our work to encourage the physical regeneration of older areas have begun to tackle this problem. “There is no doubt there are challenges ahead but with its strong industrial infrastructure and wide skills base, we are confident Tees Valley can play a major role in the UK’s economic recovery. “We are currently developing our Investment Plan to identify the what, the when and the how to achieve our ambitions.” *TVU is a partnership between the five Tees Valley local authorities, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland, along with One North East, the Homes and Communities Agency and private sector business leaders.

Further information on Tees Valley Unlimited and its activities please visit www.teesvalleyunlimited.gov.uk


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INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

CARVE HIS NAME WITH PRIDE It is possible to continue to chop down trees for manufacturing and still sustain the environment and even improve the lot of Third World farmers. James Barker tells Brian Nicholls how he and his furniture business do it

Don’t accuse James Barker of not seeing the wood for the trees – nor even of not seeing the trees for the wood. He’s got it all worked out, hopefully, though it’s fair to think, even so, that – as the youthful

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looking 44-year-old’s feet were probing through mists to conquer for pleasure the Three Peaks of England, Wales and Scotland recently – his mind almost certainly would have been straying back from time to time to Indonesia, with its steamy forests and exotic creatures like bearded pigs and Javanese flying squirrels. In the midst of global concern about receding forests and their inhabitants, the managing director of Barker and Stonehouse – the UK’s

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biggest independent family-owned furniture retailer – is deep into Trees4Trees. This is a community project extensively his pet, and involving some 12,000 farmers in Indonesia. Its endeavours are giving others in the developed world a lesson in sustainability, through a scheme that has seen one million trees planted – offering self-progress and better living standards for Third World villagers, while revolutionising timber procurement for manufacturing. >>


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Happy tree growers: Farmers seem pleased with Trees4Trees It may seem quirky that Barker and Stonehouse, based in a corner of Middlesbrough where barely a tree’s in sight, has been instrumental in planting a million seedlings of mahogany, teak, mango and sengon trees to benefit all those farmers and their communities in impoverished parts of South East Asia. It is also to the benefit, of course, of the

furniture industry, enabling Barker and Stonehouse among many more to now promote a popular range of lines that allow buyers at the same time to make an ethical choice in furniture buying – even as effects of recession are carried over. Suddenly, buying teak is no longer selfish and inconsiderate towards nature. This wood once thought finite and threatened is now being sustained.

This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s long-term. But farmers seem to embrace it and you can’t think they’ll be worse off. A mango tree to them is like a good pension or something they could fell for a dowry for their daughter

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Barker and Stonehouse has funded and supported Trees4Trees since its inception four years ago. Barker himself is no sandalled and sackclothed campaigner, nor even in the Green Party. But he did study agricultural economics at Newcastle, and did farm work in his youth. “I’ve always had an outdoor life and I suppose the whole environmental thing has grown,” he explains. “We have to pay attention now. You think: ‘What difference can we make?’ I can realistically do it through the business. That’s what we’ve done.” His firm has worked very closely with several suppliers in Indonesia over many years. “One evening,” he recounts, “we got talking. One of the co-founders of Trees4Trees is an Australian, very receptive to ideas, very creative. We asked ourselves how we could put back a little of what we were taking. We talked and talked various ideas around. “After a few months we came round to this. The scheme and the detail, he very much came up with – Geoff Hardy, our biggest supplier. He has a furniture factory in central Java. It supplies furniture you can see in our showrooms here.” Though there wasn’t much Indonesian red tape at government level, and the project proved quite straightforward in the end, it took nine months to get a trust set up for the purpose. “We had to look at various angles. Who’ll benefit? How will you benefit? And how that feeds all the way back to the retailers. And at what level of funding will retailers want to get involved.” The system’s simple, as Barker explains. “We retailers pay a small levy on every container of furniture we buy. That goes back into the Trees4Trees programme, which is run in central Java. Barker and Stonehouse itself has a wholesale operation called Big Furniture that supplies about 200 shops throughout the UK and Southern Ireland. “The seeds come from native trees and are grown in nurseries. Seedlings are then distributed to the villages and farmers. The seedlings and the growing trees need looking after all the time. If the villagers are not directly involved the trees will not be looked after, maybe even will get stolen.” He and others of the company visit the projects regularly to ensure progress. The


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farmers get technical guidance on planting and forestry practice, and so far there have been no grounds for misgivings. The farmers seem happy, even though benefits may be slow initially, given the life cycle of trees. The scheme appears to have caught on with retailers also. “I think there may be other schemes where money is put back into forestation – but nowhere near as community-based as this. It’s quite an original idea,” Barker says. “It’s all very well to run plantations. But plantations in Indonesia, for example, are very much government-run and monocultural, whereas this is community-run. We have agricultural colleges, universities and schools all very much involved. “Free seedlings to anyone with marginal land who wants them – that was the offer and the response was terrific. Even here if you went round saying ‘anyone want free seedlings for

their back garden?’ everyone would take it up.” The 170,000 teak trees planted so far will take about 40 years to mature on about 100,000 metres square of land. “But even at today’s values that’s worth $25m,” Barker estimates.”We’re not taking that money. All those communities have that resource. If they got even half, it would still be a big input. The buyers participating then have the opportunity to buy the raw material. “We don’t sell much teak furniture at Barker and Stonehouse, but we didn’t want a monoculture-type operation. So mahogany has been planted too, also mango wood – which we use predominantly in our furniture – and also some very quick growing trees like segnon, which are ready for replacement within seven or eight years. “If a farmer plants 300 trees on marginal land – Indonesia is very hilly – he’ll have a variety of

INTERVIEW

trees maturing at different times. Over, say, 40 years he’s got something to harvest every few years. He may not always be planting trees we’ll necessarily use ourselves. But he has the opportunity to sell that timber. The industry has become a lot more global in sourcing wood over the last 15 or 20 years.” Does this mean cheaper furniture? “Not necessarily – it’s solid timber, after all, and well finished. But I would say it’s good value and you’re at that level of providence where you know there’s money going back into timber. That’s the big thing for customers.” Every piece of Trees4Trees furniture gets a tag with a specific number on. Customers can go on to the Trees4Trees website, tap in that number and see where the next trees resulting from their contribution will be planted. “We’re trying to get it on to Google Earth too, so customers can see it down to a 500 metre level. It gives a sense of participation.” >>

Let there be light – but cheaper Some may wonder why such a successful but obviously upmarket business like Barker and Stonehouse has itself flourished and grown so remarkably in Middlesbrough rather than somewhere like Windsor or Cheltenham where disposable income is otherwise more evident. After all, today’s business is nothing like that started in 1946, when James Barker’s grandfather had to fight for utility furniture to stock. “It was a case then of what you could get to sell,” Barker observes. “Today it’s the other way round completely!” Grandfather, however, was good at tracking down whatever basic furniture was available, and along with James’ uncle Frank, who excelled in advertising, and Alec Stonehouse, a partner, they made a very good team. James’ father joined about 1961, and James himself took over as managing director six or seven years ago. But no, he says, the firm didn’t consciously move upmarket during its growth into eight stores employing 245 staff in the North East, Yorkshire and Nottingham. “We’ve always sold a good product and just met customers’ wants, needs and aspirations.” Foresight and sound financial management feature though. Despite the recession and resultant slowdown in property movement, a major motivator otherwise of furniture sales, Barker and Stonehouse has raised turnover to £43.47m in the 12 months to March-end from £37.88m previously, lifting pre-tax £1.85m from £1.57m. This was despite feeling the full impact of the downturn in the economy two years ago. The company responded with change, applying strict cost controls and focusing more on the customer. It also brought

in value ranges and essential ranges more affordable than one might have expected before. Refurbishment is planned for the Newcastle store, however, and IT is being upgraded. Investment in product ranges goes on as ever. The financial constraints have inspired Barker and Stonehouse to press on with an environmental programme at home too. By switching to green-energy bulbs in all outlets it’s saving £47,000 a year. Barker says: “Our biggest energy cost has normally been lighting by some distance. We tried to find a more efficient system. It was difficult at first. A lot of low voltage lights give off a very white light which takes all the colour out of furniture, making fabrics and leather look very stark and cold.” Then a North Shields firm and the Carbon Trust together brought their skills and knowledge to bear and now an appropriate type of bulb has enabled all lighting rigs to be replaced. “It has saved us a fortune,” says Barker. “Not only are they low voltage, but also they give off less heat. So in summer we don’t require as much air-conditioning, which again costs a fortune to run. And whereas staff had to change light bulbs almost every morning, taking half an hour out of someone’s time, the bulbs rarely need attention now.” The company’s goal is a 40% reduction in carbon usage within four years and it seems on target with 25% saved already. “It’s something everyone has been involved with in the company. Everyone has come up with ideas that have all added up. It’s been good,” he says. The company exercises its social conscience at home too. It runs a furniture recycling scheme with the Hartlepool charity Owton Fens Community Association.

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INTERVIEW

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Eastern promise: The trees4trees project extends across much of South East Asia

Initial set-up costs ran to hundreds of thousands. But Barker says that with all the levies coming back the scheme is now self-funding. And while initially funding was sourced in the UK and Australia, products are now being sold in the USA, Russia, Singapore and other countries of Europe. “So there’s levy coming now from many different parts of the world,” he affirms. Training 12,000 farmers sounds onerous but was done on a pyramid built of local trainers, schools and agricultural colleges. Reliable monitoring of growth is vital so there are nine monitoring points to check water quality and quantity, animal factors, vegetation and pesticides. That’s working very well, he says. “Since the farmers own the trees they are prepared to look after them. “And though the investment involves something of a wait, the farmer knows that at a certain time he will get a certain amount of money. He can work it out. Initially the farmers all wanted to concentrate on quick growing stuff. But we’ve tried to ensure a mix because the slow growing ones are better for furniture-making generally. “This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme for them. It’s long-term. But they seem to embrace it and you can’t think they’ll be worse off. A mango tree to them is like a good pension or something they could fell

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Regular visitor: James Barker visits the Indonesian project regularly

for a dowry for their daughter.” Any sceptical journalist is being offered telephone interviews with farmers prepared to tell how the project benefits their families and communities. In a nation where 30% of the working population is in forestry the local participants have given as reasons for joining Trees4Trees: free seedlings (42%), prospective rises in income (32%) and environment (10%). There are 13 sites of special cultural interest and 12 of special ecological interest. The project is also improving habitats through providing better canopies of green, strengthening the protection to creatures such as leopard cats, pygmy treeshews and, of course, the bearded pigs and Javanese flying squirrels. Scientifically speaking there are 12 key mammal species there, 13 aves species and 19 herpetofauna – of which 11 are classed as Rare, Threatened Endangered (RTE). Social impact is also being studied, including effects on job opportunities, local business, income, perceptions and bearing on local culture. Says Barker: “It’s good getting schools involved because the children get involved in environmental issues and products. And with the monitoring side you get good scientific research.” n

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www.trees4trees.org

I’ve always had an outdoor life and I suppose the whole environmental thing has grown. We have to pay attention now. You think: ‘What difference can we make?’ I can realistically do it through the business. That’s what we’ve done


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INTERVIEW

SUMMER 10

SUCCESS? IT’S NOT ALL TALK It’s happened to most of us – a need to phone our mobile network provider. Long ring out ... “...sorry for keeping you waiting. All our lines are busy. Please hold. We’ll connect you as soon as we can.” Music plays – the sort you detest. If you’re really unlucky, an advertisement – telling you what good service you’re getting. Then, “...sorry for keeping you waiting” again. And again. Perhaps even again. Thank heavens, many customers say, for CCS Mobile, an independent telecoms provider that takes the weeping out of waiting in these situations. That’s as well as working with all the mobile networks to find the best and most cost-effective solutions for businesses. This remarkable little company has been guiding customers out of telecom frustrations and mysteries since 1987. If you’ve not heard of it, maybe that’s because the staff of 12 work flat out daily – and often into the evening – on their priority of bringing their customers peace of mind and, often, pleasant financial surprises. It can get to network help quicker than you or I because of its priority accesses. And the networks apparently tolerate its price-cutting on subscribers’ behalf because that can deter them from switching to rivals in anger, frustration or simply in pursuit of a better deal. One customer looking forward to a well earned holiday abroad decided, eight hours before his 5am flight, he’d like a replacement phone. Long-serving team member Jim Drinkeld – “a rock for us” – drove 37 miles through the night in his own time, and through a snowstorm on roads only just passable, to make the delivery. Another customer, a global sportswear and equipment provider strong in the North East, had introduced a new communication system enabling floor managers to receive an SMS with the current takings every 15 minutes. Unbeknown to the IT manager, that meant some 70,600 texts were being sent monthly from one Sim card. The bill was immense. The CCS Mobile account manager who spotted this during a bill review immediately liaised

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

Chris Lee tells Brian Nicholls how he and his wife Wendy developed a small business now being acclaimed for its success culture

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Talking smart: Chris Lee

with client and network. Result: an ongoing charge of £10 a month instead of a £3,500 phone bill. Another North East business with a signal problem found CCS Mobile could free it from its unsatisfactory contract, and another firm observes: “They tailor our accounts so we are in control of what is an essential tool.” A well-known paint manufacturer says: “We’ve achieved savings year-on-year over the last 10 years, with the cost per user driven down at each review – and no deterioration in quality of service from CCS Mobile or in network performances.” A builders’ merchant adds: “CCS Mobile is not a call centre like those where experienced staff have failed to react to problems as quickly.” Finally, from another major group: “CCS Mobile has taken time throughout to understand our true needs, tailoring our services to deliver great savings and best possible communication tools for our people, who are better connected than ever before. The difference to our business and its profitability is remarkable.” This group had been losing a grip on its telecoms costs. Over three months, free of charge, CCS Mobile’s strategy saved the group £40,000 a year. Lee says customer service for CCS Mobile is a matter for pride, often provided same day. “We’re passionate about what we do and how we compete in our industry,” he adds. The story goes back to 1985. Lee recalls: “Because of very poor mechanical and electronic products on the market, CCS was formed to specialise in vehicle security. We were well placed – Sunderland, unenviably, had Europe’s highest auto crime figures. “Some like-minded specialists – a master locksmith, encryptologist, electronics specialist, for example – got together with the Police Scientific Development Branch in their own field. They formed Pact (Partnership Against Car Theft)/Sold Secure, in partnership with Northumbria Police. Lee says: “Blessed and part-funded by the Home Office, our respective skill sets and


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knowledge created a set of installation and product standards for the vehicle industry that are still used. This original document is now manifest in Thatcham.“ What prompted Lee, now 50, to set up a business? “A very large client requested I supply and install something called a ‘cellular car phone’. This was early technology, circa 1986, and basically half radio, half cellular and known as a Storno. It was the start of our supply and service of mobiles for business-tobusiness in the North East.” Initially the company name was CCS Electronics. “As business diversified and grew, the brand stuck and evolved. Our recent ‘rebrand’ now entails ‘CCS… talking business’. It sums up what we’re about.” In the past year its client base has grown 29%. Brand-leading clients such as Puma, Umbro and Head have come aboard. Even before its present phase the firm’s expertise and knowledge in aftermarket vehicle installations was widely known. “We had many footballers’ cars with requests to install top-end audio, navigation and, latterly, Sony PlayStation, Xbox, TVs and so on.” The firm still has full-time engineers to install hands-free car kits, tracking systems and the like, and at one point when demand for mobile phones was soaring, the company opened retail outlets separate from in-car premises and covered the region down to York. When it was felt, a few years on, that the firm’s skill sets lay more in B2B rather than retail, the branches were closed and activity centred on Sunderland again. CCS Mobile had long operated from modest premises near the Vaux site but two and a half years ago it moved into and transformed the shell of a building beside the headquarters of Sunderland and Portsmouth Newspapers. The CCS Mobile centre now brightens Pennywell Industrial Estate, from where it covers primarily an area between Berwick and Northallerton, and across to Cumbria, though it has valued customers in London and other parts of the country too. By the end of this year, clients’ annual communication spends with CCS Mobile may exceed £4.2m, and while CCS Mobile will continue to work nationally it will remain concentrated on serving the North East, since

it envisages so much business still to be picked up on the doorstep. Sales director Mark Lavender is currently relocating his young family back home to the North East. Since joining the firm less than two years ago he has galvanised sales performance. “He has a passion for the business and the young sales team he leads,” Lee explains. Lavender brings new ideas and processes,

Personal Note Chris Lee, born at Wearhead in Weardale, attended Southmoor Technical Grammer School (as it was in the 1970s). Later he studied at Wearside College. Today he, Wendy – “absolutely critical in how we built the business” – and daughter Nikki live in Seaburn, Sunderland. Nikki is achieving success in the business in her own right and Lee says. “She answers directly to my sales director.” Despite working so intensively with mobiles, Lee carries one all the time. “I love the freedom it gives. And e-mail on the move has transformed my outlook on work. I turn everything off when I need to be away from the stress. But the truth is, I love what I do.” Away from the office, Lee may be found golfing at Ramside. “A lot of members there are clients of ours. So occasionally I can mix business with pleasure – or in golf is it ‘frustration with pleasure?’” As part of its ”support local” philosophy, CCS Mobile spends around £450,000 a year within the region. It raises and gives about £15,000 a year to local charities. Despite the nature of the buiness, Lee says nothing beats face-to-face when communicating with its own customers. Ten times in 12 months recently two clients have bought off each other on CCS Mobile recommendation. After all, who knows better than they about networking? www.CCSMobile.co.uk www.talknortheast.co.uk

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challenging his colleagues successfully also to believe they can acquire the larger clients. Now CCS Mobile, co-owned by Chris Lee and his wife Wendy, has been named top small business in the region’s Service Network Culture for Success Awards. Emphasis in these is on culture and development methods giving companies distinction. The judges found much to enthuse about at CCS Mobile. Lee told them: “Our team are part of our brand. We don’t headhunt staff. We develop them.” Nikki Lee, for example, once worked in fashion retail. She joined CCS to run the front office, proved herself and is now a marketing executive, studying for a marketing diploma with the company’s support. Staff performances are fuelled by mentoring and investment in formal training. All get one-on-one guidance, appraisals and assessments, and every quarter they are sent on network-supported training courses. A network trainer visits monthly to give skills training, and staff are also encouraged to join external courses, paid for by the company. They are also given study time. At work, they have clear targets within a transparent firm. They’re empowered to make decisions, each with their own dedicated list of customers – and often it’s a job to get them to go home. Vodafone has awarded the firm Premier Dealer status, making it one of 10 select partners around the UK, and the only direct-serve Vodafone dealer north of Leeds. It is also Vodafone’s choice as a pilot partner. Staff bonding? Every quarter there’s a get-together and there’s an annual family event centred around Sunderland Air Show. One other thing: “We’re pleased to say we’ve the best paid team in our industry.” So churn is low among staff and customers. Indeed, its customer churn is lowest in the UK in Vodafone’s experience. In the past 12 months the firm has lost only one customer, a victim of the harsh economy. The longest serving employees have 15 years’ service. With all its testimonials why hasn’t CCS Mobile won awards before? Lee says: “We’ve had our heads so much in the job, we haven’t looked at awards. Someone in the office said that if we each gave a colleague an award the display cabinet would start to fill up!” That doesn’t look necessary now. n

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ENTREPRENEUR

SUMMER 10

BUILDING SUCCESS FROM OUR HERITAGE Buildings are in his blood, he says, which is why Peter Stienlet takes such pride in preserving some of our finest architecture. He talks to Brian Nicholls Right, we’ve all shared the joke about that Yellow Pages cross-reference: “Boring, see civil engineers”. But two civil engineers you don’t typecast like that are Peter Stienlet and Mark Turner. Stienlet earlier studied three years towards a medical degree; Turner’s an ex-paratrooper and driller roughneck on oil rigs. Not quite the Odd Couple perhaps, but certainly civil engineers out of the ordinary – and business partners now in Patrick Parsons Ltd. It’s a firm Stienlet started out with at 17 and now, at 41, runs as managing director. In two

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

years its workforce has more than doubled, and he predicts a 40% rise in turnover as he discusses opportunities in the Far East with a Chinese architect. Buildings are in his blood, he says. Patrick Parsons indeed has recently won the conservation accolade in the RICS North East Renaissance Awards, for its part in developer Gentoo’s refurbishing and converting (to apartments, offices, a restaurant and surgery) the Grade II listed Irvin Building, a major landmark that was once a bonded warehouse on North Shields fish quay.

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Following the family pattern he might have been an architect. His great great grandfather, who came from Belgium to set up ship’s chandlers along the road from the Irvin Building, had a son Pascal. The firm later became known as Pascal J Stienlet and Son when Peter’s grandfather took over. It fuelled speculation that Peter would follow suit. Pascal J Stienlet, after all, laid notable landmarks in Newcastle, designing Byker’s Apollo cinema in 1933. That was bombed eight years later. But a new Apollo by the same practice rose on the same site in 1955.


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That hosted diverse entertainments before making way for a supermarket in 2001. A year after the original Apollo completion, Pascal J Stienlet (as distinct from today’s Stienlet Pascal J Son) designed a house unique to Newcastle – Ashbourne, on the corner of Glastonbury Grove and Jesmond Dene Road. Newcastle Council’s character statement on Jesmond Dene conservation area, says Ashbourne has recently been refurbished and extended in a manner “not entirely complementary” to the original. Could they mean “complimentary” too? Either way Peter Stienlet, instead of being drawn to architecture, holiday-temped in his youth for Patrick Parsons. Even amid medical studies at London University he worked for the firm on extending Leicester Square Odeon. Why quit medicine? “I’ve a very, very bad

Dome-sday task: Patrick Parsons has worked on refurbishment of the Dome, Whitley Bay’s seafront landmark

Water everywhere: Patrick Parsons is working on a £3.5m upgrade of Teesside’s whitewater course at Tees Barrage, seen here in an artist’s impression

ENTREPRENEUR

We’ll never make a fortune out of heritage, but it gives us a uniqueness that’s invaluable memory for names. So I stumbled in pharmacology. But things like that give a bit of life experience. I’d hope now people see me a little differently to your normal engineer. I lost nothing and I’ve never looked back. Things like that give you an edge. I’ve the writing to go with it though - an A Level in doctor’s handwriting. No-one can read it.” He worked back in the North East for a year, then gained his three-year civil engineering degree at Newcastle University. “I’d been doing surveys for Patrick Parsons and running its accounts and all sorts throughout – anything to make a bit of money as a student.” After another year with the firm he joined the engineering consultancy now known as Cundall for some years. He was offered a partnership at the firm, but on learning that it had declined an option to buy out Patrick Parsons, he himself bought into the firm he knew intimately. He built his stake and brought in Turner. “We’d been at university together, the two mature students.” Their full management buyout had Stienlet as major stakeholder. “So there we are. We haven’t gone straight from school to university to an engineering post to a promotion up the ranks and ended a bit higher up. We’re not of that mould. “But Mark, with his military background, runs our engineering, ensuring that everything goes out correct and on time. He’s the force behind our engine room. I couldn’t do what I’ve done without him. We’ve always worked extremely well together and I think we always shall.” Over the years the firm has relocated; from Jesmond to the Bigg Market, Collingwood Street then just before Christmas to the fine

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mid-19th Century building, Waterloo House, where they are now. It’s part of the Tyne Theatre restoration by Adderstone Group. With bank backing from the Co-op and Lloyds, Patrick Parsons has bought this property, as well as a second one in the Bigg Market. In fact, aside from its multiple properties, a lot of Patrick Parsons’ assets are clearly on view. It enjoys a major reputation for its heritage work. Alnwick Castle and Durham Cathedral are just two national treasures whose magnificence has been entrusted to it. At Alnwick Castle, assessment is necessary about risk from falling masonry – inevitable with the passing of time. Bridges and parapets need repair, for weathering stones must be replaced deftly. “In this, a lot of technology is moving on dramatically,” Stienlet explains. >>

Fish Quay accolade: Patrick Parsons has been commended for its work on the conversion of the Irvin Building, a former bonded warehouse on North Shields fish quay

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


ENTREPRENEUR “Much of the survey work is done digitally, photographing every stone and mapping so they can be highlighted within a specification for replacement and things like that. Older buildings have inherent problems. We’re here to sort them.” As for the frequent concealment of much of the hard work, he’s philosophical: “A lot of our satisfaction comes from knowing you’ll not see us around there again for another 200 years. We’ve preserved something for a decent period. Design a new building and it may last only 25 years. In our heritage work a client may say he doesn’t want something rebuilt for another 150 or 200 years, and our team get great satisfaction from that.” Some heritage work does require change, though, such as the old Hexham Gaol now a museum, where a Victorian staircase had to be taken out and a glass lift planned. “Again,” Stienlet reminds, “that’s an ancient monument with hoops you have to go through. You have to be trustworthy to do that, building a relationship with the heritage community.” Whitley Bay’s central seafront is sometimes likened by locals to Beirut after Israeli shellings, so deep is the decay and destruction. Here the firm’s at the heart of a belated fight to save some of Spanish City’s iconic architecture. Its white dome at least – the last vestige of a once great entertainment venue – looks now as if someone cares. Stienlet says: “In its heyday, it was a real seafront attraction. Involvement with the team trying to sort that out gives us pride. We’ve restored the dome, made the building weathertight. A lot has been saved. Hopefully, more will be.” Patrick Parsons wants to help further, but phase two of the project falters, North Tyneside Council having overspent elsewhere in reviving the resort on which 36,000 Scottish holidaymakers used to descend in its peak summer fortnight. Now questions remain about the future purpose for the site if restoration succeeds. Stienlet, a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, has ideas but withholds counsel for now. He does predict though: “If Whitley Bay is to enjoy economic recovery, work on that building must be completed. There’s a lot still to do if the town is to make a serious

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

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comeback. Counter-attractions today are phenomenal.” It’s a fair bet that, as with earlier commissions, Patrick Parsons would try to rescue as much as possible for future generations. That’s its creed in city preservation as well. “There too,” he points out, “you have listed buildings, listed facades. A developer may want to come in and do something viable. We can say what can and can’t be done. We can show alternatives to combine all considerations. We’ll never make a fortune out of heritage, but it gives us a uniqueness that’s invaluable.” Last year, despite recession, the firm took on four more staff and finalised purchase of its

Personal Note A rugby-mad supporter of Newcastle Falcons, Peter Stienlet played at medical school till injuring a knee. He travels to Hong Kong and Dubai to watch the sevens and enjoys especially Dubai 50,000 people out in the desert watching rugby in 30 degrees heat in December.”Pity the players but it’s a good release from everything going on in workaday life!” He met wife Paula, a Londoner, at university in our region, and they and their children – Kate, 10, Emily, 8, and Matty, 5 – live at Corbridge. Parental involvements in parties, netball, and lessons in riding, dancing, flute and swimming stop him going totally bonkers about the oval ball. Other business interest: of his two brothers, one runs a training business in Bristol while the other joined him seven years ago to undertake rural development work, and last May they launched Burnfoot (www.burnfootholidaycottages. co.uk) – a conversion of a 19th Century farm built of stone by Lord Armstrong. The development at Netherton, near Rothbury, comprises 14 holiday cottages, six already sold while eight are being let. Besides a tennis court and babbling brook, there’s the business executive’s ultimate luxury – no phone signal.

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latest offices. It completed more jobs than usual, albeit smaller than normal. “So we haven’t done too badly in an industry that’s been decimated. A lot of our big competitors are really struggling. Being a bit smaller, we can also be very flexible,” he says. A bigger buzz since December has the firm now looking for more qualified civil engineers and senior technicians, and Stienlet stresses to applicants there’s lots more to Patrick Parsons besides heritage work, for it works also in a wide variety of sectors that include power, transport, residential and healthcare. The company has also become heavily involved in whitewater courses. It recently started work on a £3.5m upgrade of Teesside’s whitewater course at the Tees Barrage, an initiative by British Waterways, Stockton and Middlesbrough Initiative, One North East, Sport England and the British Canoe Union. This follows its successful configuration of Holme Pierrrepont, the venue for last year’s European championships and current training course for Team GB’s 2012 Olympic kayaking squad. And at the property professionals’ MIPIM gathering in Cannes recently, the company secured seven schemes in two days – not bad for its first visit to this major event. Patrick Parsons got involved in whitewater through Andy Laird, a keen kayaker and chartered civil engineer who had worked for Stienlet before setting up himself to work on projects for the burgeoning sport. He’d done a lot of feasibility work on how best to deliver. Says Stienlet: “He does the clever stuff - how the water’s going to flow. We design all structures on the back of that. As a partnership it works tremendously. It has grown out of a meeting with a friend to something beyond all proportion.” The existing Teesside facility is getting an additional shorter course, with a conveyor to lift rafts and kayaks back up to the start of the course after each run, eliminating a long haul up steps. Also, for the first time, the course will not be tidebound. Through the night electricity generated will be sold to the National Grid to help pay costs. “This is one- off stuff and very exciting,” says Stienlet. You can imagine him saying that about any job in hand, and he’d mean it. n


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COMPANY PROFILE

As an organisation that can trace its origins back to the early 1980s, Durham Business Club has ridden the economic rollercoaster for the past three decades.

FOCUSING ON ENTERPRISE AND TRAINING AT DURHAM BUSINESS GROUP

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s the organisation approaches its 30th anniversary, its core values of encouraging enterprise and supporting learning, remain solid. Managing Director Christine Yule, explains why 2010 has been an extremely important one for Durham Business Group. Durham Business Club was established in 1981 at a time when - as now - recession and cutbacks were part of the common business vocabulary. But as with many of the members who have shared our journey, focusing on our core values has better prepared us for the next challenge. Throughout the years those values have remained the support of enterprise – particularly the small business sector of County Durham – and the development of learning and training opportunities for young people. Our challenge for 2010 was forming the Durham Business Group to bring greater independence and identity to each of the organisation’s core activities. The Group now comprises Durham Business Club, Durham Training and a brand new operation - Durham Office Services – to provide virtual services to SMEs including mail fulfilment, telemarketing and reception work. As the Group’s most visible brand, Durham Business Club remains a vibrant network for entrepreneurs, bringing together 300 businesses to pool ideas and experience and to produce better results for themselves while contributing to a thriving private sector. Anyone in business knows that building relationships is one of the most important things you can do – whatever stage you are at on your entrepreneurial journey. That’s why Durham Business Club with its monthly meetings, guest speakers and social activities - remains fundamental to the success of the organisation. Networking enhances those opportunities and helps business owners feel they can relate to and

Above: Christine Yule, Managing Director of Durham Business Group

engage with people who have been there before and can offer the advice, mentoring and support to take them to the next level. Meanwhile, Durham Training continues to equip dozens of motivated apprentices for the workplace in hairdressing, beauty therapy, business administration and accounts. Although we are one of the smallest apprenticeship providers in the region, we continue to be one of the best with consistently high retention and achievement rates. Last year, we helped 65 apprentices into employment and recorded an 86% graduation rate - well above the national average of 69% The success of Durham Training is all down to the hard work put in by the apprentices themselves, their very supportive employers and our dedicated team of work-based learning tutors. Apprentices are very important to employers – especially in the current economic climate – and we celebrate their contribution and achievements at our annual awards ceremony. If that’s not enough, we’ve just completed a rebrand, delivering a sharp make-over and greater

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independence and identity for each of our services. While it’s a very exciting time for all, the formation of Durham Business Group represents a challenge and a huge opportunity for us to develop new ideas and continually improve what we offer. But everyone involved – from the club members and staff, to the apprentices and companies that offer them work - is committed to ensuring that each of our operations become stronger and provide the best possible services they can. From their own experiences, The Group and its members know that the best way to deal with change is to adapt and react. That is what we have aimed to achieve with Durham Business Group – bringing greater focus to each of our service areas, improving our image and the awareness of what we do, how we do it and why. It’s stood us in good stead for the past 30 years and I’m sure it will for the future.

Mile House, Bridge End, Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham DH3 3RA Tel: 0191 388 4488 www.durhambusinessgroup.co.uk E-mail: info@durhambusinessgroup.co.uk

Christine Yule is Managing Director of Durham Business Group. She can be contacted on Tel: 0191 388 4488 or email christine@durhambusinessgroup.co.uk

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MEDIA BRIEFS

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such a large resource to the general small business community. Feedback already is excellent,” he says. Topics include sales, marketing, management skills, coaching, and delegation, and health and safety. Material has been produced in-house and by trainers from outside. www.BusinessLearningDirect.com

The Scrutator >> Pinning down your victim Selling to the C-Suite, by Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz (McGraw Hill h’back 208pp). Many sales books simply cover how to sell, not about how customers buy. This book tells how to cut out underlings and sell straight to the elusive top-tier corporate heads who sign the really big deals. The authors between them have 60 years’ experience selling to corporations globally. This, plus findings from interviews with heads of more than 500 organisations, forms the basis of this guide. Surprisingly, many up top don’t avoid sales pitches, and indeed welcome them if approaches are right. So insights are given on identifying the right executive, on establishing trust and credibility at that level, and on creating value and developing the relationship. Particularly relevant: the point when those executives first enter the buying process, and the role they take.

>> SME skills online and free A programme of business training is running free online, for owner/ managers of small to medium-size businesses. It combines video training, business resources, and step-by-step guides to developing skills. Tutor and managing director John Graham has provided specialist resources free to niche markets before. “But this is the first time we’ve rolled out

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>> 24-hour web test

also from HMV stores and through www. sundayforsammy.com. And 75% of each £16.99 sale goes to the fund.

>> Dell “shamed” IT giant Dell has been put into The Forum of Private Business’s “Hall of Shame” after extending the time it takes to pay suppliers by 15 days – from 50 to 65.

In the North East’s first overnight charity “hack” Webdurance – a 24-hour marathon – 36 website creators teamed up to create new sites for six local charities. Organisers Paul and David King, of 1Day Later, aim to counter criticism that many charity websites seem dated or are hard to find.

>> Paywall resisted The Times newspaper has lost 66% of its online readership now its website charges, according to Experian Hitwise. A check by the North East bdaily news website suggests only four in every 100 of its readers would pay.

>> Stars of tomorrow There’s no business like showbusiness. And away from the glamour of footlights and cameras it is still a business where people have to earn a living. Over 10 years a Sunday for Sammy show, a variety tribute to the late Geordie actor Sammy Johnson, has drawn North East stars of stage, screen and music to finance the Sammy Johnson Memorial Fund that supports aspiring young performers of the region. Tim Healy, Kevin Whately, Brendan Healy and Denise Welch were among stars in the latest City Hall, Newcastle, performance now out also on DVD. Timothy Spall features, also some of the fund’s young beneficiaries. A 4,000-strong audience loved it. This critic enjoys especially Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell, and wished Mark Knopfler had played his guitar rather than the fall guy more. The DVD is available from JG Windows at Newcastle and the MetroCentre, Gateshead,

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Lesley Hunter: Paws for thought

>> It’s the dog-gone boss Ii’s a dog’s life in some ways being a manager, which can be good, Lesley Hunter argues in her offbeat book. Hunter, a professional trainer brought up with dogs from childhood, uses her German Shepherd Keno as a case study to teach people-handling. Barmy? No. Her pocket manual will enable employers to tutor candidates for promotion quickly, cheaply, thoroughly and entertainingly. Employees can also buy it for themselves and self-raise their prospects. Hunter’s serious, throwing in Johari’s Window, Tuckman’s team development model and other theories – casually but effectively. She’s been a teacher, senior college lecturer, and a development leader with a county council before launching her own business on Wearside. BQ readers may have enjoyed her As I See It column that recently suggested how businesses can still progress in recession. Who Put You in Charge? By Lesley Hunter (AuthorHouse, £9.99). www.lesleyhunter.com


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COMPANY PROFILE

As the first independent training provider in Tyne and Wear to achieve the coveted Training Quality Standard (TQS), Access continues to help the region’s businesses drive up productivity and efficiency through specifically tailored training programmes which ensure individuals and teams fulfill their potential.

FLYING HIGH WITH ACCESS

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HINGS have really taken off for Access apprentice Deborah Lillie who is racing through the ranks at Hays Travel. In just four years the 23-year-old has risen to become Assistant Accountant, having completed the Accounting Training levels 2, 3 and 4 whilst gaining vital industry experience. Deborah is just one of a number of apprentices which Access has recruited for Hays Travel in the last four years after the company decided there was a gap in the business for young accountancy trainees. After meeting with Access and hearing about its vocational apprenticeships, they decided the training scheme would be a perfect fit for their needs. The apprenticeships are designed to help young people gain all the theory and qualifications they need, whilst applying their skills and knowledge in the workplace. This allows them to really get to grips with the profession and be the best at what they do. Deborah is testament to this and says: “From day one Access allowed me to combine college learning and practical work experience. I have progressed through the company to the point where I am now Assistant Accountant and line manage another Access apprentice.” Employing an Access apprentice has a number of benefits for the employer, not least in the recruiting process itself. The Access team takes the time to meet with clients and really get to know the business before carrying out a vetting process, only suggesting candidates that are ideally suited to the company. Access is also able to tailor the training the apprentices receive to ensure it can be practically applied within the business. Katie Woods-Ruddick, Training Manager for Hays Travel, believes this has been the biggest benefit to the company. “The training allows students to practically apply the things they learn immediately

THE TRAINING ALLOWS STUDENTS TO PRACTICALLY APPLY THE THINGS THEY LEARN IMMEDIATELY IN THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT, GIVING THEM AN EDGE ON THOSE WHO JUST LEARN THE THEORY OF ACCOUNTING

Deborah Lillie with her Access Training Adviser, Steve Beavis

in the working environment, giving them an edge on those who just learn the theory of accounting. This is great for us because we know that the trainees have the skills and knowledge they need to quickly fit in to our business.” Led by an award-winning organisation, all Access apprentices are employed and receive outstanding support from Skills Advisers who regularly meet with apprentices and employers to ensure good progress and working relationships. Apprenticeships are available in Administration, Customer Service, Accounting, Learning and Development, Management, Storage and Distribution, Security Systems and Manufacturing Operations.

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For more information on how an Access Apprentice can benefit your business, visit www.accesstraining.org.uk or call Tel: 0191 4904651.

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COMPANY PROFILE

SUMMER 10

Working closely with S.W. Durham Training in Newton Aycliffe, Durham Precision Engineering provides a combination of on and off-site training.

APPRENTICESHIPS PROVIDE RIGHT COMPONENTS FOR BUSINESS GROWTH

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ITH the majority of its workforce trained via Apprenticeships, Durham Precision Engineering is happy to credit a large proportion of its business growth to developing the skills of its workforce. Formed in 1985, the Newton Aycliffe-based company has progressed from its 3,000 square foot premises employing five people to a 13,000 square foot purpose built facility with 38 employees and an annual turnover in excess of £2.5 million. The company is a tool making and precision engineering specialist and along with investments in the latest machinery and systems, Durham Precision Engineering has devoted considerable resources to building a strong and flexible workforce. This includes growing the talents of new recruits and encouraging ongoing training and development throughout the company. Working closely with S.W. Durham Training in Newton Aycliffe, Durham Precision Engineering provides a combination of on and off-site training as part of its Apprenticeship programme. As well as Apprenticeships in CNC manufacturing, there are also training and development opportunities in other engineering-related disciplines such as tool making, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, fabrication and welding and manufacturing. One of the latest apprentices to have joined the fold is 22 year old Alex Burkill from Mordon near Sedgefield. Alex was recruited by Durham Precision Engineering in 2007 after completing his A Levels. Working as an apprentice toolmaker, he is now in the final year of his three year Apprenticeship programme. After spending the first year of his Apprenticeship full-time at S.W. Durham Training’s specialist centre, where he gained an insight into basic engineering practices, Alex moved onto Durham

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

THE APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMME PROVIDES STRUCTURED YET FLEXIBLE TRAINING

Above: Geoff Mason and Alex Burkill Precision Engineering to take up his current post. S.W. Durham Training continues to oversee his development and he also attends Darlington College of Further Education one day a week to work towards an HNC in Mechanical Engineering. Durham Precision Engineering is happy to cite the business benefits of the Apprenticeship programme. Geoff Mason, Business Development Manager, explains: “We work with a wide variety of industries ranging from aerospace and automotive organisations to the pharmaceutical, construction and oil and gas sectors. To meet their precise needs, we rely on high calibre people with the right skills and a forward-thinking attitude. “The Apprenticeship programme provides structured yet flexible training which suits the developing needs of our business. It also gives us first-class, committed employees who can grow with our organisation. In fact, the majority of our senior managers, including myself, started off their careers as apprentices and have worked their way up into senior roles.” It has never been easier for employers like Durham Precision Engineering to recruit apprentices.

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The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), which is responsible for Apprenticeships in England, supports employers who want to take on apprentices or use the programme to develop existing members of staff. One of the services they offer is a free online recruitment system, Apprenticeship vacancies, where employers can advertise their Apprenticeship vacancies to a wide range of interested applicants. John Wayman, regional director, NAS, added: “The Apprenticeship vacancies system provides an extremely cost effective recruitment solution for organisations of all sizes and sectors. It is simple to use and there is no charge for the service, so employers can advertise their vacancies and tap into a wide pool of excellent candidates.”

To find out more about employing apprentices within your organisation, please contact the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600 or visit the website www.apprenticeships.org.uk


SUMMER 10

IN ANOTHER LIFE

ON THE CREST OF A WAVE Mike Parker, creative director and co-founder of award-winning digital media agency Orange Bus, says if he hadn’t set up a business in partnership, he would have been in another life doing something that gave a simpler work/life balance and wasn’t so dependent upon money, so he could then dedicate more time to his passion - surfing

I started surfing on Christmas Day when I was 23 and on a trip to Peru. My girlfriend then bought me my first surf board, and I have never looked back since. It stirred the beginnings of my passion for surfing and I spent the entire month I was in Peru learning to surf. The locals were amazingly friendly and helped me understand what surfing is all about. I try to ensure my holidays are taken where I can surf. I think my partner is getting used to the idea that the two go hand-in-hand. We’d just recently returned from a surfing trip to Fuerteventura when I planned a short surfing trip to Portugal. Day to day, I don’t get to surf as much as I’d like to. Orange Bus takes up a lot of my time. When I do get the opportunity I don my wetsuit and walk out my front door and along to the beach at Blyth. When not surfing my local spot at Blyth I like to get up the Northumberland coast; there are some great spots between here and another favourite of mine, Coldingham Bay just across the border. I live in Blyth and it’s great being able to look out of my window and check the surf conditions. Having said that, in an ideal world I’d love to live right on the beach, surf in the morning then pack up and head for snow-capped mountains in the afternoon. We must all make choices. I’d have been equally happy with my alternative life, but the imminent birth of my daughter Gabriella in September 2006 proved the catalyst for my entrepreneurial spirit, and ultimately the decision to strike out and indulge my other passion, that of helping businesses make best

use of the web. I think fate played a part in my life decisions as I actually met my business partner, Julian Leighton, surfing in Tynemouth in 2006. We found we not only shared a passion for surfing, but also a talent for design and creating a different level of digital media, both wanting to deliver a more developed level of software for companies. We soon became business partners, calling our Newcastle company Orange Bus after Julian’s former vintage VW camper van. I’m fortunate to have made a success of my business, as well as making time for my hobbies. Orange Bus is growing at a phenomenal rate and has beaten off stiff competition to secure a number of national and regional accounts. Recent project wins include NHS, global software giant Sage, and car gaming company Eutechnyx. We were also voted North East Digital Agency of the Year this year in the New Year’s Honours list of the leading industry magazine The Drum. I think success is doing what you love and what you’re good at.

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On the board: Mike Parker has a real passion for surfing

BUSINESS QUARTER |SUMMER 10


EVENTS

SUMMER 10

BQ’s business events diary gives you lots of time to forward plan. If you wish to add your event to the list send it to: editor@bq-magazine.co.uk. The diary is updated online daily at www.nebusinessguide.co.uk

AUGUST 6 First Friday North East’s first birthday celebration, Central Bean Coffee Shop, Newcastle. firstfriday@newcastlesciencecity.com. 9 North East Process Industry Cluster’s Eve of Tall Ships Sail Event, Hartlepool (5.45pm). Paul Butler, tel 07802 255 118, e-mail paul.butler@nepic.co.uk. 17 Geoff Ramm on That’s What I Call Marketing, NECC network, The Lancastrian Conferencing and Banqueting Suite, Gateshead (11am). events@necc.co.uk, tel 0300 303 6322. 17 Managing Discipline and Grievance, Acas seminar, Newcastle (8.30am). Contact: tel 08457 383 736. 19 Free Workshop for Future Business Owners, run by OneDoor (partnership of Teesside University and five Tees Valley colleges), Teesside University, Middlesbrough (9am). Contact: tel 01642 384 400, edp@tees.ac.uk. 20 Human Resources Management: Redundancy, NECC seminar, Aykley Heads, Durham (9.15am). events@necc.co.uk, tel 0300 303 6322. 24 Essential Skills for Supervisors, Acas seminar, Newcastle (9.30am) Contact: tel 08457 383 736. 25 From Sick Note to Fit Note, A New Approach, Acas seminar, Newcastle (8am). Contact: tel 08457 383 736.

SEPTEMBER 3 Social Networking for Business, CIM event led by David Lord and Michelle Morley, Darlington FC Stadium (9am). www.cimevents@cim.co.uk.co.uk. 6 to 11 UKTI Canada Markets Visit to Ottawa, Halifax. Contact: enquiries@ukti.rito. co.uk, tel 0845 050505. 7 Finance Issues for Directors, NECC event, Aykley Heads Business Centre, Durham (8am). events@necc.co.uk, tel 0300 303 6322. 7 Taste of Britain, NECC event, Durham Castle (7pm). events@necc.co.uk, tel 0300 303 6322. 8 Self-assessment Made Easy, free workshop for future business owners, Victoria Boardroom, Teesside University (9.30am). edp@tees.ac.uk, tel 01642 384 400. 10 Talk the Talk, free workshop for future business owners, Victoria Boardroom, Teesside University (1.30pm). edp@tees.ac.uk, tel 01642 384 400. 14 Marketing Transformation Leadership Forum, CIM event, Great North Museum, Newcastle (8am). www.cimevents@cim.co.uk. 14 Inkspot Workshop, Helping Innovation Businesses to Collaborate More Effectively. Newcastle University Business School. joanna.berry@inkspotscience.com, tel 07875 541 180. 15 Marketing Successfully to Generation Y, CIM event, led by Stuart Powell, Durham University Business School (6pm). www.cimevents@cim.co.uk. 15 Energy Policy Conference, NECC event, Quality Hotel, Boldon (9am). events@ necc.co.uk, tel 0300 303 6322. 16 Essential Employment Law Forum, seminar by Jacksons law firm, Central Sq, Newcastle. Contact: callen@jacksons-law.com. 21 ICAEW Northern Region, Anti-Money Laundering, refresher and update, Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham (1.30pm). marie.rice@icaew.com, tel 0191 300 0532. 23 NOF Networking Lunch with Scottish Power Renewables, Sunderland Stadium of Light. jgray@nofenergy.co.uk. 28 Having Difficult Conversations, Acas seminar, Newcastle (9.30am). Contact: tel 08457 383 736.

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29 Tomorrow’s World of Work: Opportunity Knocks, Service Network event, St James’s Park, Newcastle (12.30pm). Alexis Towell tel 0191 244 4031. Register: www.service-network.co.uk.

OCTOBER 1,2 ICAEW Northern Region, Peebles Tax Weekend – Recovering from Taxing 202 Times, residential conference, Cardrona Hotel, Peebles. alison.tait@icaew.com, tel 0131 202 1252. 5 Bid Proposals and Standard Contracts within the Offshore Industry, NOF workshop, NOF Durham. jgray@nofenergy.co.uk. 5 Dawn Gibson on Adding Local Value with CSR, CIM event,Tees FM Radio, Thornaby (6pm). www.cimevents@cim.co.uk. 6 Enterprising Skills and Ideas, free workshop for future business owners, Victoria Boardroom, Teesside University (1.30pm). edp@tees.ac.uk, tel 01642 384 400. 7 Durham County Oktoberfest, engineering and manufacturers’ exhibition, Rainton Arena (9.30am). mdb@sdemf.org.uk, tel 01325 328 865. 7 NSCA Annual Dinner with Barry Cryer, Civic Centre, Newcastle (7pm). marie.rice@icaew.com, tel 0191 300 0532. 8 Intelligent Marketing, free workshop for future business owners, Victoria Boardroom, Teesside University (1.30pm). edp@tees.ac.uk, tel 01642 384 400. 9 to 14 Oil and Gas Market Visit to Libya. jgray@nofenergy.co.uk, tel 0191 384 6464. 12 North East England Tourism Awards, Rockcliffe Hall, Darlington. Jennifer Cook, tel 0191 204 3310. 13 Tomorrow’s World: Keeping it in the Family? Service Network event, venue tbc (9am). Alexis Towell tel 0191 244 4031. Register: www.service-network.co.uk. 13 Marketing for Start-up, free workshop for future business owners, Victoria Boardroom, Teesside University (1.30pm). edp@tees.ac.uk, tel 01642 384 400. 14 ICAEW Northern Region, Preparing for and Running an Effective Appraisal, Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham (1pm). marie.rice@icaew.com, tel 0191 300 0532. 15 Teesside Society of Chartered Accountants Annual Dinner, Thistle Hotel, Middlesbrough (7pm) 18 Newcastle Jobfest, jobs fair for graduates, St James’ Park, Newcastle (10.30am). angela.smee@ncl.ac.uk, tel 0191 222 7768. 19 CBI North East Annual Dinner, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. Hilary Nichols, tel 0191 255 4413, hilary.nichols@cbi.org.uk. 19 Managing Talent: Legal Update, Service Network event, venue tbc (9am). Alexis Towell tel 0191 244 4031. Register: www.service-network.co.uk. 20 Finance for Start-up, free workshop for future business owners. Victoria Boardroom, Teesside University (1.30pm) edp@tees.ac.uk, tel 01642 384 400. Please check with the contacts beforehand that arrangements have not changed. Events organisers are also asked to notify us at the above e-mail address of any changes or cancellations as soon as they know of them.

KEY:

Acas: Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, CECA (NE): Civil Engineering Contractors Association (North East), HMRC: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, ICE: Institution of Civil Engineers, NSCA: Northern Society of Chartered Accountants, FSB: Federation of Small Business, Tbc: to be confirmed.

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Official Government Environmental Test Data. Saab 9-5 Saloon range. Fuel consumption mpg (litres/100km): Urban 17.4–40.9 (16.2–6.9), Extra-urban 38.6–64.1 (7.3–4.4), Combined 26.6–53.2 (10.6–5.3). CO2 emissions 244-139g/km. Offer available to business users only for orders received before 30.09.2010. Figures shown are based on a non-maintenance contract hire package for the bailment of goods over 36 months, assuming a maximum of 10,000 contract miles per annum. An advance payment equal to 3 monthly payments is payable followed by 35 monthly payments commencing Month Two. Package includes Road Fund Licence and Saab Assistance. An excess mileage charge plus VAT applies if the contract mileage is exceeded. For full terms and conditions please refer to the Saab Contract Hire Master Agreement. All quotations are subject to availability, status, acceptance and agreement and guarantees may be required. Terms are unavailable to existing customers where specific end-user terms are in place with Saab Great Britain Limited. All rentals are quoted exclusive of VAT which is payable at the prevailing rate. Quotation correct at time of going to print. Sample quotation is given subject to there being no changes in manufacturer list price. Vehicles shown are for illustration purposes only. For full specification and details contact your local retailer, before placing an order. Offer may not apply to all retailer stock and is subject to availability. Saab Great Britain Limited does not offer tax advice to individuals and recommends that all company car drivers consult their accountant with regards to their particular tax position. No monetary alternative available from Saab Great Britain Limited. Contract hire by ALD Automotive Ltd., trading as Saab Contract Hire, Oakwood Park, Lodge Causeway, Fishponds, Bristol BS16 3JA. ALD Automotive Ltd. is incorporated in the UK and regulated by the Financial Services Authority in respect of general insurance products. On the road prices include number plates, delivery, Road Fund Licence, first registration fee and VAT. Excludes fuel and insurance. 2.0T Aero Model shown for illustrative purposes only. Available for £444 a month (excl. VAT) plus an advance rental of £1,332 (excl. VAT).

Advanced notice. The all new 9-5 Saloon from £349 a month* (excl .VAT) The sleek and sophisticated all new 9-5 saloon arrives in dealers this July with a generous array of standard equipment. For example the 2.0TiD Vector SE comes with leather/textile seats, 17" alloy wheels, cruise control, electronic climate control, keyless push button engine start/stop, heated front seats, park assist and more; all for an attractive £349 a month* (excl. VAT). Scandinavian simplicity has never been so advanced.

To find out more, contact Alexanders Saab at your earliest opportunity. Plus an advance rental of £1,047 (excl. VAT)

*

Alexanders Saab Teesside

www.alexanderssaab.co.uk 01642 679 781 Teesdale, Thornaby-on-Tees, Teesside TS17 6BB

sales training that hits targets Sales training and development to increase your sales n n n

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Training course duration from one day to several months which means that you can use your time effectively to fit in with your schedule Learn new sales strategies which means that you will improve your skills and win new clients Training and development that is interactive with exercises and discussions which means that you will have greater learning and retention of the skills and techniques ConTaCT us now via email or phone and tell us what you want to achieve in your sales performance

0191 226 7366 michael@arrowsales.co.uk

www.arrowsales.co.uk


BIT OF A CHAT

with Frank Tock >> The power of giving Before giving charitable donations the chop in the corporate war of attrition against recession, heed this. The Community Foundation for Tyne and Wear and Northumberland reports researchers from Newcastle University as concluding that giving to charity may not simply be altruistic, but can also boost your reputation and reap rewards. Scientists from the university’s Centre for Behaviour and Evolution have discovered those who donate, and are more generous, get benefits later as others are more inclined to want to work with them or help them. The research involved 40 strangers playing an economic game with the Monopoly-like aim of grabbing the biggest amount of cash. Author of the paper, Karoline Sylwester, says: “The players who gave away most money early on gained the most desirable partners and ended up with most money.” So tell that to your finance director and shareholders. And if you want to test the theory, and get involved in local charitable giving, phone Peter Storey on 0191 222 0945.

>> Take a break More than one in five people (21%) here in the North East regularly work all day without taking a break, putting their health at risk. Members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy are concerned that taking too few breaks, working in the same position too long, going to work when ill or feeling stressed, and of course not exercising enough all pose serious

BUSINESS QUARTER | SUMMER 10

SUMMER 10

health risks that can also create huge costs for employers. The survey shows, again in the North East, that more than one in four staff regularly work through their lunch break and one in five take no lunch break at all. Over a third who do work through their breaks (42%) do so saying they have too much work to do. And 29% say it’s because there are too few staff to cover the workload. Tell that to your finance director and your shareholders too. The CSP says health risks resulting include back pain and other chronic musculoskeletal disorders, obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease, diabetes type 2 and strokes. Sickness absence and sickness presence, when staff come to work feeling unwell, is costing employers and society over £35bn a year. Now here’s a way to tackle our ailing economy...

important in product design. “After the depths of recession, there’s a sense people want to move forward, to feel positive and safe.” Green and white, then. Looks like Celtic’s year in football...

>> Cycle of pain Has aerobics gone too far? Or is this a ruse by science fantasist Dean Kootz? My favourite morning paper recently advertised for sale “a folding lady’s bicycle”.

Reformer: Barry Rowland

>> Such a colourful year So the burning question for every business involved some way in design: how will that General Election result influence public taste in colour schemes for whatever purpose? No-one better to answer that, perhaps, than Joanna Feeley, mastermind of Trend Bible, who has just excelled in the If We Can, You Can Challenge from the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Joanna’s the international colour and design trends guru you may recall from an earlier BQ. From her observatory in Newcastle’s Westgate Road she tells me: “Anything that affects social and cultural trends affects colour and design trends. When we were forecasting trends for spring/summer 2010 (in November 2008!), we recognised there’d be a gaping hole in our research that we couldn’t predict – the election result. “But we knew as we edged towards May there was a real desire for ‘change’, which was more important to us than knowing which party would win. So it’s now all about fresh, vibrant, positive, celebratory colours. “Green’s important. We put this down to a desire to report ‘green shoots’ after the recession, and there are lots of trend directions that hinge on a consumer trend for wanting a ‘fresh start’ or a clean slate. So white’s very

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>> Voting to go mobile? On election reform, should we press harder for an extension of the postal vote? Barry Rowland, chief executive of Newcastle City Council, tells me: “Newcastle is a nationwide pilot on this and 50% of our votes are postal votes. We get a higher turnout as a result.” He sees other ways of raising public participation, adding: “With secure means of identification and other controls we might be able to vote on our mobile phones. Let’s look at the technology of voting. We might be pleasantly surprised at what that yields.”

>> Sound of silence SOS Publication Group has announced the closure of Performing Musicians. All hands lost, then?

>> Digging a hole Without burrowing too deeply, I discover that the news editor of the Tunnels and Tunnelling International website is Kris...er... Mole.


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BQ North East Issue 10  
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